WCCUSD changes mask guidelines

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Photo credit: Mike Kinney

Starting today, masks are no longer required, but strongly recommended, at West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) middle schools, high schools and central offices, according to Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Chris Hurst.

Starting on April 15, when students return from spring break, masks will no longer be required, but strongly recommended, for all schools and central offices, including pre-K, TK, elementary and K-8 schools, Hurst added. Until then, students on these campuses are required to wear masks while indoors.

The policy seeks to align with California Department of Health guidelines and comes amid a drastic drop in COVID-19 caseloads in the past few weeks, according to the superintendent.

“During the Omicron surge in January 2022, we had a weekly high of 732 students test positive across our district,” he said.

Last week, there were 25 student cases, and cases among staff have also declined, from 70 in January to five last week.

Hurst said 87 percent of WCCUSD students ages 12 and over are either partially or fully vaccinated, and over 90 percent of staff. The vaccination rate for students under 12 is currently not known, and the district is waiting until after the spring break to allow for “time to monitor the case rates for this age group.”

“We are now focusing on making sure the remaining students and staff who are not vaccinated understand the importance of getting vaccinated before the July 1, 2022 mandate,” Hurst said.

Despite easing of the mask rules, the district will continue providing high quality masks for students and staff, along with proper ventilation in classrooms, hand sanitizers, and personal protective equipment for immunocompromised individuals. Weekly testing, contact tracing and vaccine clinics at school sites also continue, Hurst said.

“As an educational community, we strive to promote respect and civility; therefore, we ask all staff, community members and students to be respectful of each person’s individual decision about whether to wear a mask at school,” the superintendent said.