ALPINE, Calif. (KGTV) – State officials clash with hopes for an Eastern County school district to open the school year with maskless classrooms.
Recently, the state announced that it will let local schools decide how to apply a mask warrant for all students.
“Our interpretation is… we’ll have the ability to decide if we need masks in the classroom,” said Rich Newman, Alpine Union School District.
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On Wednesday evening, the Alpine Union School Board, which oversees the K-8 district, met and voted.
“The board decided, if in fact we have discretion, that we would make them optional for our students,” Newman said. “With the high vaccination rates, the variables have changed this year and our parents strongly believe in not wearing masks.”
Cori Bertalan, the mother of an 8th grader, applauded the decision.
“I am extremely happy. We would be in line and see all these students tear off masks in a dramatic fashion. My son would come from PE and have trouble breathing, ”said Bertalan.
“My children want to breathe freely. They want to interact with friends and teachers, ”said Carly Maritz, who has two children in the school district.
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Newman says he’s convinced a mask option won’t endanger safety.
Last year, Alpine Union was the first local school district to reopen for in-person learning in September. He was also the first to vaccinate staff. Newman says 99% of staff are now vaccinated.
“The local context is important. We have strong protocols, ”Newman said.
Newman points out the new hospital-grade ventilation systems in each school, electrostatic cleaning and extensive contact tracing, which includes assigning bathrooms to each student. He says that last school year, the protocols did not lead to any cases of spread in schools. At the end of last year, those protocols included three feet of social distancing.
“It won’t be a warrant, but if possible, we’ll put in some spacing,” Newman said.
The other mandate that district officials hope they won’t see in schools is the mask mandate. The school year begins on August 18. Newman says parents will have the opportunity to learn remotely.
On Thursday afternoon, when asked about Alpine Unified’s plans for masked electives, a spokesperson for Governor Newsom told ABC 10News: “This is unequivocal. Local schools will have discretion over how it is enforced, but we expect the mask mandate to be enforced. “
The spokesperson said local health departments will be responsible for ensuring that the mask’s mandate is implemented. The response from state officials is now creating a potential stalemate with the Alpine Union school district.
“If there is discretion for local schools, we will give parents and students the option of not wearing masks,” Newman said.