For California students, a normal-ish return to school this fall amid COVID case surge

SUNNYVALE, Calif. - September 07: Sapna Rao, a parent whose daughter is attending one of the Cupertino Unified School District's schools, talks to this news organization on Sept. 7, 2021, in front of the district's office in Sunnyvale, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

COVID is still everywhere it seems, but the back-to-school routine will be as close to “normal” as most students have seen since the start of the pandemic.

As K12 schools re-open this month, face masks will be optional for most California students, as they were last spring. Testing and quarantining are being dialed back. Schools are giving out rapid tests for students to take before returning to class from the summer break but aren’t demanding proof of a negative result.

And talk of a statewide vaccine mandate for students has been put on hold along with requirements for the shots that many school districts such as Oakland and West Contra Costa were planning last year.

“It’s kind of returning to the old adage of when you’re sick, stay home and when you’re better, come back,” said Megan Bacigalupi, of Oakland, who heads the CA Parent Power advocacy group that pushed for schools to reopen and allow families choices on COVID protection. “We need to give kids the normalcy in 2019 that they had back.”

Yet for many parents and teachers, there’s some unease about returning to school without face mask requirements while COVID-19 case rates across California are four times what they were when the statewide school mask mandate finally lifted in March.

Sapna Rao of Cupertino, home-schooled her 10-year-old daughter Aishwarya for much of the last school year after their district declined to continue the online distance learning program. They’ve been vaccinated and are big believers in the face masks she credits with keeping her family COVID-free so far, but she still frets that with so many kids coming together after summer trips, there will be outbreaks.

“She will mask up,” Rao said, “but it is a little bit concerning given that a lot of people will have traveled.”

Aishwarya said she is looking forward to school starting. She doesn’t mind wearing a mask all day — when she needs a break from it, she steps outside where virus transmission is less likely. But she’s missed seeing friends in class.

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“Homeschooling is nice,” she said, “but boring.”

SUNNYVALE, Calif. – September 07: Sapna Rao, a parent whose daughter is attending one of the Cupertino Unified School District’s schools, talks to this news organization on Sept. 7, 2021, in front of the district’s office in Sunnyvale, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Mask requirements aren’t gone everywhere. While state health officials announced in June that masks would remain optional for the 2022–2023 school year, that doesn’t mean local health and school officials can’t require them if they believe it’s appropriate.

San Diego Unified, for one, adopted a policy in May in which masks would be required indoors at school when the county’s positive case rate and hospitalizations put it in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s high community risk level, as the health agency recommends. The county hit that level last month and remains there. The district required masks for summer school last month and hasn’t yet decided whether they will be required when classes resume Aug. 29.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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