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FAQ on New Masking Protocols (March 2022)

What is the new protocol for masking?

On March 3, the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) announced that it planned to follow the masking guidance for schools issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on February 28. 

 

Specifically, the ACPHD said, masks would no longer be mandated indoors. Instead, masking will now be “strongly recommended.”

 

As such, AUSD will continue to implement safety measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in its facilities, but will no longer mandate masking. Instead, as an organization, we, too, will now strongly recommend masking indoors.

 

What is the reasoning behind the changed protocol?

According to ACPHD’s March press release:

 

“Since the peak of the Omicron surge in January, cases have come down significantly overall as well as in highly impacted communities, and hospitalizations are well below their peak. When there are fewer cases, there is less virus circulating, making it safer to adopt changes to the strictest COVID restrictions.”

 

Does the new masking protocol apply to staff, too?

Guidance for public school district employees comes from CalOSHA, and this organization, too, has aligned with CDPH. That means that staff are no longer required to wear masks inside AUSD facilities, but AUSD strongly recommends that they do so.

 

Does this mean everyone will stop masking?

We don’t believe so. Masking is a proven strategy for reducing transmission of COVID-19 and continues to be strongly recommended indoors. We believe that many of our students and staff will choose to continue wearing masks to protect themselves, their peers, their families, and their community.

 

Is AUSD easing other safety protocols, too?

 No. AUSD will continue to maintain its many other layers of safety, including our testing program, improved ventilation in classrooms, and provision of hand sanitizer and hand washing supplies. Non-essential adults will still not be allowed to come on campus. The district will also continue to provide modified quarantine for elementary students when there is a positive case  (i.e. exposed students can continue to attend school but AUSD will provide testing in order to identify any other positive cases). 

 

In addition, based on strong recommendations from ACPHD:

 

  • Students who test positive and return to school after Day 5 because they test will be asked to continue to mask in school for the full ten days;

  • Students exposed to a positive case in both elementary and secondary classrooms will be notified of the exposure 

  • Students who are exposed to a positive case will likewise be encouraged to mask in school for a full ten days per public health 

In addition we will be encouraging school sites to hold any assemblies and or other events that bring multiple people together outside to the extent possible. If an event must take place inside we will remind attendees prior to the event that masks are highly recommended and have masks available at all entrances.

 

Please remember, too, that even one-way masking is an effective tool for reducing transmission of the virus. And AUSD will continue to strongly support, encourage, and provide opportunities for families to get their students vaccinated.

 

What about students who are medically fragile? How will they be protected?

Masks are available for all students who need or want to wear them, and all families will be notified when there is a positive case in a classroom. AUSD staff will review the health plans of medically fragile students and will reach out to families if they see a concern.  Families of students with 504 or IEPs who have health plans can also reach out to their case manager if they have concerns or believe they need new or adjusted accommodations.


What happens if cases spike again?

AUSD staff and the Board will continue to review cases rates and patterns across AUSD on a weekly basis. If cases spike again, AUSD has the authority to adopt a mask mandate to reduce the risk of infection and transmission. 

 

What does this mean for parents at drop-off and pick-up?

While we will continue to strongly recommend that families wear masks, beginning March 14, 2022 families will not be mandated to mask when they are dropping off and picking up their children at school. 

 

What does this mean for athletics and musical performances? 

The current CDPH guidance “strongly recommends” indoor masking for participants, spectators, and staff at both athletic and musical events. According to the agency:

 

“Indoor mask use remains an effective layer in protecting against COVID-19 infection and transmission, including during sports, music, and related activities, especially activities with increased exertion and/or voice projection, or prolonged close face-face contact.”

 

Does this mean parent volunteers can now come on campus?

Per the MOU with AEA, non-essential visitors still cannot be on campus during school hours. This will not change unless it is adjusted within the MOU.

 

What does this mean for family events after school hours?

This year school sites have been able to hold concerts, athletic competitions, and other events that support the core educational program after school hours. We only ask that you put in a facility request and let your supervisor know that the event will be held. 

 

 

I want my child to continue masking. How can I ensure that s/he does that while at school?

Teachers and other school staff will not be able to take personal requests from families about enforcing masking among students. Instead, we ask that famlies clearly communicate their preferences and expectations with their children periodically. 

 

How can I talk to my children about the upcoming change?

First ask your children how they are feeling about masks no longer being mandated. Some students may be happy or excited; others may feel anxious, especially those who have medically vulnerable or unvaccinated family members at home.  Validate their feelings by pointing out that any feeling is ok; adults are experiencing a similar range of emotions, right now.

 

For young students, experts recommend talking to your children about the fact that experts still strongly recommend that we all wear masks in public indoor places, including schools. Help them understand that well-fitting, high-quality masks have been proven to be effective against the transmission of COVID-19. Point out that while others may decide not to wear a mask, you would prefer they continue to wear them. 

 

You can give older students, such as those in middle and high school, the same information. But it’s important to also ask them what they think is the best practice now and to be respectful of what they’re thinking. 

 

Please note that teachers, principals, and AUSD cannot make a child wear a mask if they don’t want to.

 

I don’t want my child in a classroom with unmasked students. What can I do?

Schools cannot change class assignments or seating charts based on students’ masking practices. Please remember that case rates are currently quite low and that wearing a mask is an effective strategy for reducing the risk of transmission. 

Again, even one-way masking is an effective tool for reducing transmission of the virus.

 

I don’t want my child to wear a mask. What if other students bully him/her?

AUSD is committed to providing safe learning environments for all and for teaching students to be kind and respectful to others. Principals and teachers alike will be vigilant about creating supportive classrooms and responding to any signs that students are harassing other students over their masking practices. If you hear of a bullying incident, please contact your principals immediatel