Education

Calif. strikes back at Clovis Unified, stiffens up school mask mandate

Clovis Unified’s hopes of allowing for parents and students the widest possible latitude related to mask-wearing in the classroom collided with stiff resistance from California public health officials and the region’s largest children’s hospital.

Now, it’ll follow state rules on masks in the classroom.

One week after approving mask rules that enabled parents to attest to whether students could opt out of wearing masks in the classroom, Valley Children’s hospital CEO Todd Suntrapak delivered a stern letter of warning to Clovis Unified officials

“CUSD could possibly have a separate and distinct COVID experience, carved out from the rest of Fresno County, California or the nation,” Suntrapak wrote in a letter dated on Thursday.

Clovis Unified officials, citing the then-operative guidance, that mask-wearing requirements gave school district’s considerable autonomy in how to implement attestation policies.

On Friday, California’s Department of Public Health updated its mask guidance for schools arguably in direct response to Clovis Unified.

The new guidance requires all students, other than those with disabilities or mental health conditions that prevent mask-wearing, to mask-up.

Medical exemptions, the state amended, required a determination “by a physician, nurse practitioner, or other licensed medical professional practicing under the license of a physician.”

State officials added: “Self-attestation and parental attestation for mask exemptions due to the aforementioned conditions do not constitute medical determinations.”

The state also instituted a so-called “alternative means” requirement for masking, mandating medically-exempted students wear a non-restrictive face-shield with a drape at the bottom.

Monday afternoon, Clovis Unified officials announced they would be conforming with state guidance, citing the delay to California Department of Public Health’s publication of new guidance after the close of business on Friday.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.