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District Announces COVID Policies for Upcoming School Year

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Editor's note: This article was updated at 3:30 p.m. Monday to clarify that a final decision on the District's coronavirus policies will be made by the School Board on Thursday.

By Lookout Staff

August 5, 2022 -- Santa Monica schools will be functioning "as normally as possible" under revised policies that strongly recommend instead of mandate facemasks and tests, District officials said Friday.

When classes resume August 18, the District will follow State and County health recommendations that have dropped most mandates and lifted the shutdowns imposed during the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the start of school, the District will provide all staff and students with antigen test kits, Superintendent Ben Drati wrote in a message to parents, staff and students Friday.

The District is currently conducting a survey, and the School Board is expected to make a final decision on testing and masking policies at its meeting Thursday, District officials said.

"We are leaning toward voluntary weekly antigen testing conducted at home with any positive results reported to your school site, followed by the required isolation protocols," Drati wrote in his letter.

"This will be the honor system and we are trusting our families and staff to do the right thing for the benefit of the broader school community."

The District also will strongly recommend the use of face masks indoors, which were mandated after in-person classes resumed last year.

"We are reviewing recommended protocols regarding masking when exposed to a positive case in classrooms and will have follow up information in my next communication on this aspect of masking," Drati said.

The District will continue to require staff "to be vaccinated with the initial single or double dose of Covid-19 vaccines, and encourage boosters at the recommended intervals based on age and health status," Drati said

"Doing this will also limit the amount of disruption with staffing due to potential exposure of staff to positive Covid cases in the community," he said.

Facilities teams have been working all summer preparing classrooms, offices and other indoor and outdoor spaces, and regular cleaning will continue throughout the year, Drati said.

In addition, the District has installed Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) 13 filters in all spaces with air conditioning systems and air scrubbers in spaces without systems.

The MERV 13 air filters -- the highest rated filters that fit in standard units -- "can filter out bacteria and viruses that can cause infections, including Covid-19," Drati said.

The District also has added hand washing stations at every campus and will "continue to encourage frequent hand washing or sanitizing to help prevent the spread of illness."

Those who are sick should be tested and stay home, Drati said.

"Students or staff members who test positive may not attend school or come to work. We can prevent the spread of illness when everyone does their part and stays home when sick," he wrote.

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