LAUSD working toward ending indoor mask mandate at schools

Los Angeles school officials are working toward ending the indoor campus mask mandate, they said Friday night, as the state and L.A. County removed their requirements and handed decision-making power to local districts.

Officials in the L.A. Unified School District are continuing to “take a science-based approach to COVID-19 policy” and are “working with labor partners and other stakeholders” on a timeline for transitioning from required indoor masking to “a strong recommendation for indoor masking,” according to a district statement.

“Los Angeles Unified needs to acknowledge where we are with health conditions in our district and in our school communities,” the statement said.

The announcement comes after L.A. County health officials said Feb. 28 that they would align with the state’s move to end indoor school masking requirements after Friday.

The move gives the county’s 80 school districts, including L.A. Unified, the ability to make their own decisions about whether to continue with mask mandates beginning Saturday.

At the time of L.A. County’s announcement last month, the teachers union said it would be premature to end the mandate. A United Teachers Los Angeles representative could not be reached Friday night for comment.

The teachers union previously said that an earlier agreement would maintain the masking requirement in L.A. Unified unless it returned to bargaining with the district over the mandate.

Local 99 of Service Employees International Union, which represents most nonteaching campus workers in the district, has also called for a voice in safety matters.

“The safety and security of the entire school community must be a priority, and SEIU Local 99 members are ready to negotiate with LAUSD to ensure the voices of essential workers are part of the process of changing masking protocols,” union Executive Director Max Arias said last month.

L.A. County lifted its indoor mask mandate for public places such as bars, stores, offices, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters on March 4.

However, transmission levels remain substantial, at 89 cases a week for every 100,000 residents, according to data published Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer continued to urge caution in a statement Friday.

“Having children and staff fully vaccinated creates a powerful layer of protection, and continuing masking while transmission is substantial adds another level of safety for both children and staff in schools,” Ferrer said. “When combined with additional safety precautions, including infection control and testing, schools can continue to offer safe environments for children, staff and their families.”

The L.A. County Department of Public Health confirmed 48 additional deaths and 1,297 new positive coronavirus cases on Friday.

“Schools must continue to require COVID-19 cases to isolate, and a negative test will be required to exit isolation after day five,” county health officials said. “Masking and testing for asymptomatic students remaining at schools during their quarantine period are strongly recommended.”

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