September 24 2021 03:30 pm

Back to School: Local school districts respond to mask mandates

Back to School

(KTXL) — Schools are kicking off the school year in person, at full capacity, and with faces covered. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone wear a mask indoors, and the California Department of Health is backing that up with a mandate.

Districts have some discretion, but because COVID-19 pandemic rules have evolved over the last year and sometimes there is a distinction between guidance and mandates, the California School Boards Association wants to be clear. 

“First and foremost, the law says that students must wear masks while indoors,” Troy Flint, the California School Boards Association spokesperson, said. 

School boards are key in this conversation. While the rule only allows indoor face-covering alternatives for people with medical exemptions, it also gives local school districts the responsibility to decide how to handle students who opt not to wear masks inside. 

The districts FOX40 surveyed said students who refuse to wear face coverings inside will ultimately be offered an off-campus, independent study option. 

The Colfax Elementary School District will make an effort to do more outdoor education, cutting down on time spent masked. 

”Let’s do it outdoors as much as possible,” John Bagget, the Colfax Elementary School District superintendent and principal explained. “Because, like right now, I can talk with you without a mask and be six feet apart.”

Some districts have pushed back on those rules, but the School Boards Association reminded districts they may face more than legal consequences.

“Many school districts that have suggested that they may not enforce the mandate have heard from their insurers,” Flint explained. “Their insurers may not continue to provide insurance if they are disobeying the law on an important health and safety measure like this,” Flint explained.

Placer Union High School District requested the department of health lift the statewide mask mandate in schools and allow local districts to make their own rules. But, in a letter to families dated Aug. 4, the district superintendent said in part:

PUHSD’s insurer has stated that the International failure to follow state mandates, including this issue by CDPH, could result in the insurer rejecting the District’s insurance coverage.

CDPH has indicated it will update guidance as the COVID-19 situation changes.

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