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School Board Mandates Face Masks, Testing for Students and Staff

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

August 12, 2021 -- The School Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to mandate students to wear face masks in-doors and out and to be tested weekly for the coronavirus.

The Board also voted to mandate all staff to be vaccinated 45 days from the adoption of the two resolutions Tuesday or be deemed "absent without leave."

During public testimony, some parents and students called in to the Zoom meeting to oppose the mandates, warning they would have a negative impact on a child's health and wellbeing.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Superintendent Ben Drati tried to address the concerns, saying it is important for staff and parents to project optimism instead of "gloom and doom" during the spread of the delta variant.

"Being positive 24/7 is difficult for all of us, especially during this challenging time, but we can all try to do our best to maintain an optimistic attitude," Drati wrote in a message Wednesday to parents, staff and community members.

"If we reflect gloom and doom and create anxiety about kids wearing masks, or getting COVID tested, they will be frightened and anxious," Drati said.

Under one of the resolutions adopted by the Board "all students are required to wear a face mask, indoors and outdoors, regardless of vaccination status and test results" while on District grounds.

Exceptions include "supervised outdoor activities where necessary physical distancing can occur."

Students, as well as staff, regardless of vaccination status, will also be required to undergo regular mandatory testing and must test negative in order to be given access to District campuses and facilities.

"If a student refuses testing, but District or school personnel have good reason to believe the student is suffering from an infectious disease, the student shall be sent home," according to the resolution.

The student will not be allowed to return "until the school authorities are satisfied that any contagious or infectious disease does not exist."

Students, as well as staff, can request exemptions from testing and face mask requirements on health or religious grounds.

The resolution covering staff requires all employees to report their vaccination status by August 19. Those not fully vaccinated by October 1 will be barred from district facilities.

"Unvaccinated employees assigned to work on campus will be excluded from campus and deemed absent without leave, unless a District-authorized exemption or other accommodation has been obtained by an employee," according to the resolution.

All staff, regardless of vaccination status, also must wear "a face mask covering their nose and mouth, indoors and outdoors, at all times while on school grounds."

All persons coming onto District campuses and facilities also must wear face masks at all times, regardless of vaccination status.

Drati said the health and safety protocols he recommended to the Board -- which are stricter than the County's -- are necessary to protect students and staff.

"As superintendent, if I err, I must err on the side of ensuring that we have been overly cautious and health-protective, not that we have fallen short and taken unnecessary risks in the face of this new delta variant," he wrote in his message Wednesday.

"I must also use what is available to maximize and maintain the continuity of learning by doing our best to keep students and staff on campus throughout this journey."

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