SOLANA BEACH — Following the new CDC guidance calling for all K-12 students to wear masks indoors in schools for the coming school year, the Solana Beach Elementary School District has announced it will require its students to wear masks in the fall, regardless of vaccination status.
Based on recommendations from the California Department of Public Health updated on July 12, the school district will require all staff along with all students to wear masks while indoors.
Wearing masks when outdoors will be optional for staff and students who are vaccinated.
The district will also remain in stable groupings, or cohorts, but says it will expand those groupings for the fall.
“By expanding our stable groups this really supports our students’ social and emotional well-being,” Lisa Denham, coordinator of student services, said. “It allows them to have a larger peer interaction group. And it also allows us to eliminate the need for staggered arrival and dismissal times.”
The district says that “whenever possible” it will keep class sizes in the coming year to a cap of 20 students in grades K-3 and 25 students for grades 4-6.
Current expectations are for class sizes maximums of 24 students for grades K-3 and 28 students for grades 4-6 to return to those agreed to in the district’s collective bargaining agreement in the 2022-2023 school year.
Board Member Julie Union expressed her concerns with the mask mandate.
“I personally believe that the pros don’t outweigh the cons,” Union said. “I have heard from parents and even some teachers how hard it is for kids to be wearing masks and how it is really impacting them socially, emotionally and physically. It is something that I am hoping will change with time.”
This week San Diego County reported a seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases of 713, the highest weekly average since February. This week the county reported 1,264 cases in a single day, the highest single-day total of new cases since February 5.
As the county has opened following the introduction of three different vaccines against COVID-19, infection rates have begun to steadily increase as vaccination numbers have yet to reach a total that constitutes herd immunity.
Hospitalization rates, which dropped drastically following the introduction of the vaccines with 98% of those hospitalized being individuals who have either not received any dose of the vaccine or have yet to complete the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer series, according to the county.
Despite this, some parents are still upset with the prospect of students and staff being mandated to wear face coverings in schools.
“At this incredibly low-level risk there is simply no reason to continue mandating masks, quarantines or testing,” Candace Judson, a parent in Carmel Creek Elementary wrote to the board. “It is once again apparent that CDPH is more interested in politics than in science.”
According to the CDC, the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus now accounts for more than 83% of cases in the United States. This variant is estimated to be at least two times as contagious as previous variants in the country.
Studies are still being done on the variant to determine its full effects and how more likely it is to send someone to the hospital than previous strains.