The California Department of Public Health announced new mask guidelines for K-12 schools; the indoor mask mandate will expire at 11:59 p.m. on March 11 on Feb. 28. The Huntington Beach Union High School District subsequently announced in a ParentSquare message that they will be following the new mask guidelines. The first day that students will not have to wear masks is March 14.
According to the CDPH and HBUHSD, masks are no longer required but will be strongly recommended indoors while masks will remain optional outdoors. The guideline still allows individual districts and schools to keep their mask mandate, but Fountain Valley High School will follow the new mask guidelines on March 12.
“We’re gonna follow the new guideline once it comes,” said FVHS Principal Paul Lopez. “The thought is that it is still safer to mask and students and staff have the option to wear masks indoors in the classroom.”
Students like Fountain Valley High School junior Vincent Mazza feel that it will be easier to breathe without masks and to return to the classroom interactions that preceded the pandemic.
“I want to breathe better,” Mazza said. “I hope others don’t wear [masks] either because I want to see their faces.”
Meanwhile, students like junior Zuri Sherry, who will wear a mask, have COVID-19-related concerns or aren’t bothered by wearing a mask.
“I plan on wearing a mask because I don’t find the mask annoying,” Sherry said. “I want to continue being safe where I can.”
As for teachers who will continue wearing a mask, they feel it is the safest thing to do for their health and students’ health.
“I do intend to wear my mask at school when indoors and students are present in large numbers, and when we cannot all maintain a safe distance,” said math teacher Cathy Lichodziejewski. “Until data show that people younger than 18 are not at risk of COVID, I want to do all I can to help my students remain healthy.”
Still, some teachers won’t plan on wearing a mask in hopes of returning to the before pandemic classroom environment.
“Our vaccination rates are high enough so that we have fewer risks with fewer possible hosts. I feel that [COVID] will become treated as the flu has and will require regularly updated vaccinations which will provide herd immunity to those that are immunocompromised or at high risk,” said science teacher Terah French. “We need to return to healthy, normal interactions within the school setting which include connections, conversations, nonverbal facial expressions and social cues.”
According to Lopez, a surge in cases like the Omicron wave will be the only way the mask mandate will return indoors.
He also has hopes that students won’t be forced to wear masks for the rest of this year and the start of next year. As for a recommendation on what students should do, Lopez is leaving it up to the students to make their own decision.
“I want them to be safe, but I also want them to be comfortable at school. I want you guys to be comfortable in the classroom,” Lopez said. “So, I want you to be able to do whatever that you want to do. That will make you comfortable at school and we will support that either way.”