As cases in California continue to drop after the Omicron wave, California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, and state health officials issued an order to terminate “the universal masking requirement [in] K-12… settings.” The order was issued on February 28th and went into effect on March 11th.
Grace Hernandez, a Junior at K2, spoke on the topic by saying “I, as someone who lives with someone who is [elderly], feel like this can be a really big impact not only on me, but many other students who have [elderly people] in their homes or people who [are in a higher risk category].” She went on to express concern about the changes bringing up tension between students who decided to stay masked up and those who decided to take them off. “I won’t be taking off my mask; not only for my protection, but for [my family member’s] protection as well.”
Grace is not the only one who feels this way about the mandate. Nayila Harrison, a Sophomore at K2, said “I think it would be better to keep the mask on and have stricter mandates on mask usage… because it could risk me… or anyone else I care about getting COVID.… The safety of everybody should be prioritized… if there is a possibility of spreading COVID, why not keep extra safety precautions.” Nayila Harrison
Most students seem to agree with Nayila and Grace, as they have decided to stay masked up. But not everybody agrees with these viewpoints. “If anything, I didn’t really like the masks… I feel safe without it.” Voiced Francisco Aguilera when asked to comment on the topic. “I understand some people will feel uncomfortable [about my not wearing my mask].”
Ishmael Ogul, a Freshman at K2, agrees with Francisco’s view point by remarking “I think it’s a good decision to lift the mask mandate. We’ve been wearing masks for so long, I think most people are annoyed or tired of it, like myself.” He also mentioned that he thinks it would be a good idea, when students are close together, to keep the mandate in place.
Students and families were informed about the changes on March 10th, through an all-school newsletter which heavily emphasized that masks are still “strongly recommended.” The newsletter also attempted to address potential concerns, saying “…the transmission at our school [is] very low.”
The Independent Dragon has been attempting to acquire COVID-19 data since January. Repeated attempts have been rejected. Megan Lee, Dean of Culture and Instruction at K2, said in an email statement: “Because of the small size of [our] school, sharing data may lead to concerns about student privacy.… People have a right to medical privacy, and we want to respect this right. If we were a larger school, we would feel differently.”
The newsletter also stated that masks will still be mandated when waiting for COVID-19 test results, if an individual tests positive, if an individual “exhibits symptoms,” or if an individual is considered to be “close contact.” Persons who are considered “close contact” will be required to wear a mask for 10 days after the day of exposure. Masks will also be required in several places around campus, those being: in the COVID-19 testing room, college counseling DCAC room in U1 and BACR counseling team’s offices in the gym.
This policy is far from permanent, as Kalyn Olson, Dean of Operations at K2, stated in the same newsletter: “If the state experiences another spike, [the] (California Department of Public Health) may pivot back to requiring masks in schools and elsewhere.“
Though masks are no longer required on a state-wide level, counties still have the power to make their own verdict on the matter. San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), has decided to keep the mask mandate intact with no changes.
Contra Costa County has opted to follow the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) guidelines and has also removed the mandate for all K-12 schools.