Masking Updates as of March 4, 2022

Optional Masking for Outdoors Begins Monday, March 7
COVID-19 cases at WES have dramatically decreased, with just two cases over the last two weeks of school.  Because the cases are dropping and we are one week beyond our return to school from the break, it is time for masking outdoors to become optional. Beginning next week (Monday, March 7), all students and staff will have the option to wear masks outdoors, if they so choose.   The last two years with COVID have been draining on everyone.  People have very different views on this virus, vaccines, masks, etc.  To not emphasize and pay attention to these differing views would be an incredible disservice to everyone, especially as we turn the corner and begin to follow the new guidelines for masking. Everyone will have the right to make his or her own decision regarding masking, and everyone needs to be respectful of these decisions.  At no time should any individual ever comment on a choice that another individual makes. 
COVID-19 Update from State 
On Monday, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released updated masking guidance for schools. Under the new guidance, the universal masking requirement for K-12 and Childcare settings will terminate on March 11, 2022. As of March 12, CDPH will shift its guidance to a strong recommendation that students, staff, and others continue to mask while indoors in school settings. San Mateo County Health has aligned itself with the CDPH guidance and confirmed that once the statewide requirement ends, masks will be strongly recommended in all public and private schools in San Mateo County.

Masks have played an important role in making schools safe places for students to learn and adults to work. According to research cited by CDPH, “the masking requirement in California schools has allowed us to keep schools open when compared to other parts of the country. California accounts for roughly 12% of all U.S. students but accounted for only 1% of COVID-19 related school closures during the Omicron surge. Nationally during the Delta surge in July and August 2021, jurisdictions without mask requirements in schools experienced larger increases in pediatric case rates, and school outbreaks were 3.5 times more likely in areas without school mask requirements.” 

Indoor Masking at WES
On a local note, WES has had 89 COVID positive cases among students and staff since the beginning of this school year. With the help of a robust contact tracing program, it was firmly determined that all but two cases were acquired outside of school. The remaining two cases remain uncertain. The point of sharing this data is to clearly show the effectiveness of mask-wearing in combatting the spread of COVID in schools. 

The change in masking guidance reflects CDPH’s approach to rolling back safety measures now that COVID-19 conditions have improved across the state. According to CDPH, these decisions are based on science and data, including case and hospitalization rates. As conditions continue to improve, CDPH will move to less restrictive guidance. If the state experiences another spike, then CDPH could pivot back to requiring masks in schools and elsewhere. The new guidelines include:
  • Masking is still mandated indoors until the end of the day Friday, March 11th.
  • The first day of in-class instruction with voluntary masking will be Monday, March 14th.
  • There is no distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated in the new state policy.
The WESD will follow the CDPH guidelines for indoor masking. Therefore, masks will be strongly recommended, but not required, indoors for students and staff. How Does This Impact Your Child?
Currently, all students in California are required to wear masks indoors for a district to remain in compliance with state law.  The CDPH will be updating K-12 Schools Guidance to reflect that masks will be strongly recommended, but not required while indoors for students and staff, beginning Monday, March 14th. Respecting Personal Choice
  • The state is providing personal choice for masking in schools with the expectation that individual choices are respected.
  • No one should make assumptions regarding someone’s beliefs or health status based upon their choice to wear or not wear a mask, nor should they comment on them.  
  • For all students, we are asking families to make personal decisions that are in their family’s best interests.  The CDPH’s new guidelines for “strongly recommending” masking indoors at schools means that there will be many who follow the recommendation and continue to wear masks indoors. There will be some who decide not to.  Every individual has the right to make a personal decision, and NOBODY, student, staff member, or parent, should ever feel as though it is their right or responsibility to give any opinion as to the choice a person makes.  
  • If your student(s) expresses any anxiety, feel free to reach out to our school counselors for additional support as needed.
  • Students and staff should continue to remain home when sick.
  • Students and staff are encouraged to take a COVID-19 test if exhibiting symptoms and/or if they have a known exposure to COVID-19.