‘Something that we will follow diligently:’ TTUSD explains state mask requirement ahead of return to school
Kelli Twomey, coordinator of district communications for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, said the district was working this week to inform students and families of the state’s mask requirement for the upcoming academic year.
The district will begin instruction Aug. 31, and on Wednesday released a document titled “TTUSD’s 2021-2022 Back to School Fact Sheet & What to Expect When School Starts.”
Among the information provided was that, in the upcoming school year, all individuals regardless of vaccination status will be required to wear a face mask when they are indoors at a TK-12 facility and students are present, a rule mandated by the state Department of Public Health.
The document also explained that individuals will be provided a face mask if they do not have one, and that, if students refuse to wear one, they will be escorted to the office to work with their site principal and parent or guardian regarding the rule.
When outdoors, the document clarified, face masks are optional.
“What we have done, and worded it within the masking requirements, is that the guidance is mandated by the California Department of Public Health,” said Twomey regarding the fact sheet. “And that is something that we will follow diligently so that we can open fully to in-person instruction.”
‘WE DON’T TAKE ANY OF THESE DECISIONS LIGHTLY’
Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay said one goal behind the Nevada County Public School Advisory released this week, informing people about the mask requirement for the upcoming school year, was to provide clarity.
This advisory, released Tuesday, emphasized that the mask requirement is state-directed, and explained the consequences school districts could face if they fail or refuse to follow the requirement — including liability issues for board members and staff, and likely exclusions from insurance coverage.
“We wanted to let people know that these are the realities school districts and charter schools face, and we don’t take any of these decisions lightly,” said Lay.
He added that another factor in emphasizing the origin of the mask requirement in this advisory was to direct people to the appropriate avenue for any concerns related to it.
“We’ve heard that there’s a group organizing that wanted to come to the school board meetings, and we wanted to let them know that that’s a lot of effort put at the wrong place,” said Lay, explaining that the county Board of Education, for example, does not dictate mask mandates.
The superintendents of 15 other western Nevada County education agencies, from charter schools such as the Nevada City School of the Arts and Yuba River Charter to districts comprised of multiple schools, such as the Grass Valley School District, signed the advisory alongside Lay.
“School boards, we can pass a resolution to express our position on something, but we don’t have the authority to not comply with state directives,” said Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Brett McFadden, one of the administrators to sign the advisory.
McFadden said Wednesday that western Nevada County schools have started to receive questions and feedback from their community regarding protocol for the upcoming school year.
“Some are saying that the state isn’t taking enough steps to protect the community, and then on the other hand, others are saying that mask requirements are onerous and an infringement of their rights, and things like that,” said McFadden.
He added that this feedback has generally come from “a very vocal minority,” and that the majority of students and families have been cooperative with directives from the state, local health officials, and their school districts throughout the pandemic — including students cooperating with mask requirements during the last academic year.
The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District starts instruction around two weeks later than many western Nevada County districts, noted Twomey, saying that as a result, they had not received much feedback on the back-to-school mask requirements as of Wednesday.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union, a sister publication with the SIerra Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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