District changes policy from “required” to “strongly recommended”
By Dolores Quintana
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has lifted its indoor mask mandate but should COVID-19 cases begin to surge again SMMUSD may again call for required masking.
As of March 14, 2022, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District moved its indoor masking policy from “required” to “strongly recommended” for vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike. The Board’s masking resolutions were modified on March 10 and are in line with current state of California and County of Los Angeles guidelines. The vote was unanimous to amend resolutions Nos. 21-01 and 21-02 that had been originally approved in August of 2021. Dr. Ben Drati, Superintendent of SMMUSD, issued a statement that updated the district policy and made recommendations to parents and school staff going forward.
The masking policy has been amended to state the following:
“This change is effective Monday, March 14, 2022, in SMMUSD for TK-12. The first day of in-class instruction with strongly recommended, but not required, masking is Monday, March 14, 2022.
Preschool families, please expect written communication from our CDS department regarding any upcoming changes.
This change applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
Staff is required to follow the requirements of Cal/OSHA, which has also aligned with the state and county public health masking guidance; therefore, masks for staff will also move from required to strongly recommended on March 14, 2022.
The current state and county guidance still strongly recommends the wearing of masks to prevent transmission of the Covid-19 virus during the ongoing pandemic. SMMUSD therefore will recognize and support continued wearing of masks by those students, faculty and staff who choose to wear masks.
SMMUSD feels that it is important for parents to discuss their family’s expectations about mask wearing while their children are attending school. The school district would like the cooperation of parents to partner with the school district in reminding their children to respect the choices of others even when they are different from their own choices or beliefs. No student or school staff member should have to endure any criticism or mistreatment whether or not they choose to wear or not wear a mask at school and those types of behaviors will not be tolerated. The school district will not tolerate any bullying related to masks or masking. SMMUSD asks that students be sensitive to other students with underlying health issues and to take care of others as well as ourselves.
SMMUSD policy on students who exhibit symptoms of Covid 19 is that any student who does so will be sent to the health office and given a mask to wear while they wait for their parents or guardian to pick them up from school.
If the LA Department of Public Health updates their guidance on isolation or quarantine protocols with this change to masking policy and an update is expected later this week, SMMUSD will continue to follow recommended guidelines and align their policy with LACDPH.
SMMUSD would also like to remind parents, students and staff that the relaxation of masking guidance does not signal an end to the Covid 19 pandemic. While cases are declining to pre-Omicron surge levels in most parts of the country, SMMUSD agrees that this is the right time to relax masking guidelines from required to strongly recommended in the school district. However, should cases begin to surge again and threaten the public health and lives of the vulnerable members of the community, SMMUSD may again call for required masking and assertive action to prevent the spread of Covid infections in the community.
SMMUSD calls for everyone to recommit to pandemic protocols like frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer and staying home when you feel sick to help protect other members of the community and prevent increased spread of the Covid 19 virus. “
Dr. Drati issued the following reminders to parents and staff as well about continuing Covid testing and policy regarding active Covid infections among students and staff:
“We will continue weekly testing of staff and students at our schools / offices. We will continue to track reported positive cases and provide weekly updates to our Covid Dashboard.
If your student or a staff member exhibits COVID-related symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, please continue to have them stay home and follow current isolation protocols.
Our testing hubs for symptomatic students and staff at John Adams Middle School and Malibu Elementary School continue on school days. See schedule.
Students exposed to a COVID positive person at school will continue to follow quarantine protocols.
Antigen tests will be distributed prior to spring break for students and staff to self test the morning of April 18 and bring in the test stick showing a negative result for entry to school. Parents and staff will receive a letter with more information prior to spring break.”