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District to Drop Indoor Mask Mandate Monday

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By Lookout Staff

March 10, 2022 -- Santa Monica and Malibu public school students and staff can choose to take off their masks indoors starting Monday after a unanimous vote by the School Board.

The Board voted Thursday to "move the indoor masking protocol for TK-12 from required to strongly recommended" in order to align with state and county guidance.

The newly amended protocols apply to both students and staff, whether they have been vaccinated or not, District officials said.

"Both state and county guidance emphasize that masks continue to be strongly recommended," Superintendent Ben Drati wrote in a letter to parents, students and staff.

"Therefore, we recognize and support the continued wearing of masks for students, staff, and visitors who choose to do so," Drati said.

The District will continue to conduct weekly testing of staff and students at schools and district offices and track positive cases reported, officials said.

A survey of 5,162 parents, students and staff showed more than two-thirds supported the protocol changes -- with 68.2 percent in support and 31.8 percent opposed.

Half -- 51 percent -- said the changes should be implemented Monday, 18.1 percent said they should kick in one week after the spring break and 31.1 percent thought they should not begin until the end of the school year.

Among parents, 63 percent want voluntary masking to begin Monday, 23 percent at he end of the school year and 14 percent one week after spring break, according to the survey.

Fifty-one percent of students and 41 percent of staff supported dropping the mask mandate on Monday.

Nearly three quarters of the responses -- 73.7 percent -- were from parents, 10.9 percent from students and 10.9 percent from staff.

Drati urged parents to ask students "to respect the choices of others, even when they differ from their own.

"No student or staff member should endure criticism or mistreatment for their choice to wear or not wear a mask at school, and such behavior will not be tolerated," Drati wrote.

"Bullying will not be tolerated. We encourage students to be sensitive to classmates with underlying health issues. We need to always take care of ourselves and each other."

Drati also noted that the health emergency declared two years ago is still in place and that precautions such as frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer and staying home when sick should continue to be followed.

"It is important to remember that changes to mask policy do not signal an end to the COVID-19 pandemic," Drati wrote in his letter.

"Cases are declining to near pre-surge levels everywhere, and this is the right time to move face masking guidance from required to strongly recommended in most settings.

"We want to remind everyone that any new surge that threatens public health and the lives of vulnerable residents may call for quick and assertive action and a new requirement to mask," Drati said.

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