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California officials reverse course after school mask rules update

Posted at 7:18 AM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 20:22:43-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- After initially stating students who do not wear face masks indoors would not be allowed onto campuses, California public health officials reversed course and suggested individual school districts would decide on the enforcement of mask rules.

On Monday afternoon, the California Department of Public Health released updated guidance for the 2021-22 school year “to align with the CDC to reinforce the shared priority of full in-person instruction for students.”

The state's guidance update followed the CDC's announcement last week that vaccinated teachers and students can attend campus classes without having to wear a face covering. After the CDC update, California announced that it would continue to require face coverings in schools.

RELATED: California: Students who refuse to wear masks indoors can't return to classroom

In the updated guidance published Monday, masks are still optional outdoors at California K-12 schools, but students and adults sharing spaces with students in K-12 schools will be required to wear masks indoors unless they have an approved exemption.

Additionally, students who will not wear a mask will not be allowed to attend class on campus, the guidance stated. Schools would then have to offer alternative education for students who can't be on campus if they won't wear a face covering.

However, hours after announcing the updated state guidance, the California Department of Public Health tweeted: "California’s school guidance will be clarified regarding masking enforcement, recognizing local schools’ experience in keeping students and educators safe while ensuring schools fully reopen for in-person instruction."

A spokesperson for Gov. Newsom told the Los Angeles Times on Monday evening that local school officials would be able to make their own decisions on how to enforce mask rules.

State officials did not say when a clarified version of the updated guidance would be issued.

RELATED: Masks still required at California schools despite updated CDC guidance

Meanwhile, California continues to recommend that everyone eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine who is a part of the K-12 community gets the vaccine.


San Diego Unified School District Board President Richard Barrera said the state's about-face on their initial mask guidance means it will be up to the districts to enforce the mask rules.

Barrera said, “The state is requiring that all students wear masks indoors while they are on campus.”

San Diego Unified agrees with this rule, and this fall, they will require all of their students to wear masks on campus regardless of their vaccination status.

Barrera added, “We don’t want to see bullying or harassment of division between our students on campuses.”

San Diego Unified has also spent money updating its classroom ventilation system to improve air quality.

ABC 10News checked in with other districts around San Diego County and learned the Sweetwater Union High School District, which is set to start their school year next week, will also require masks on campus.

Other districts, like Poway Unified, say they still need to discuss what the state’s latest mask guidance will be mean for their return to campus rules as students in that district will also be returning full time five days a week.

Barrera also said for parents who are concerned about students wearing masks, the district plans to hold sit-down meetings with a school nurse and other health experts to figure out how to best accommodate those students.