OC mask mandate


Kevin Sohn

HOUSE DIVIDED: In a survey of 762 students conducted by The Howler, many Northwood students await the latest COVID statistics to make their decision about safety without masks.

Noelle Escalante, A&E Editor

The State of California re-evaluated the state’s mask requirements within public school districts effective March 14, changing the guidelines from “mandatory” to “strongly recommended,” decided Feb. 28.
IUSD’s removal of mandatory masking in the classroom, in compliance with the state directive, is set to begin March 14. However, many questions still remain as to what exactly new policies will entail for students and adults on campus.
“I think what’s hard is that there’s a mask mandate, along with the vaccination part,” principal Leslie Roach said. “We have policies that all of our volunteers have to be vaccinated and prove vaccination, which is tied together and creates a lot of unanswered questions.”
COVID protocols during the 2021-22 school year have relaxed since last year’s surges between Delta and Alpha variants, with students not having to sit 6 feet apart in classrooms, along with being able to participate in more hands-on activities in the classroom. The current policies for masks in schools require students to have one on at all times indoors, and staff must wear masks if students are present. Following the Omicron surge in January, according to the IUSD COVID-19 dashboard, there was a 70% decrease in cases amongst students and staff, with cases decreasing from 508 to 70 between Feb. 15 to March 1.
“Honestly, I expected the mask mandate to be lowered a lot earlier, considering California’s history of opening up everything the second cases go down,” freshman Tashvi Mehta said. “I do have anxiety about daily life and completely getting shut down again, but I trust that the decision was well developed.”
Despite mask mandates, students still have the choice of whether or not they want to continue to wear masks indoors.
“I am supportive of the mask mandate,” junior Lailey Rezazadeh said. “It’s definitely a way to keep people safe, along with people wearing masks far before the pandemic.”
The new mask policy is set to be implemented in IUSD schools on March 14, regardless of a student’s vaccination status. The IUSD administration stated in a communications letter published on Feb. 28 that health officials will continue to make adjustments to COVID-19 policies, tailored to the current health conditions of California.