Education

Clovis Unified rolls back enforcement of mask mandate

Trustees of Clovis Unified School District voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to cease disciplinary enforcement of a mask mandate on students to wear during the school day.

The 5-0 vote, with Trustee Hugh Awtrey absent, made Clovis Unified the largest valley public school district to rollback enforcement of the state’s public school mask mandate.

The decision was rooted in an interpretation of California’s K-12 public health guidance related to coronavirus, which provides that public school districts are governed by a statewide mask mandate but can “tailor enforcement processes to local conditions.”

Such language from state guidance empowered Clovis Unified trustees with sufficient local control to make a change.

In the wake of the expiration of the universal statewide indoor mask mandate, coupled with declining case rates and hospitalizations in Fresno County following the surge of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, trustees viewed conditions as ripe to cease penalizing children for attending class mask-less.

School officials stated that they still expect families to send parents to school with facial coverings while the state’s classroom mask mandate is in effect. Noncompliant students will not be removed from the classrooms.

California public health officials have teased the possibility of removing the statewide K-12 mask mandate at the end of February, but no official announcement has been made.

Other school districts have taken a harder line on the mask issue, with Sierra Unified School District voting to strip its mask mandate altogether in a resolution that equally argued for the cessation of the state mandate and pointed out the Newsom administration’s policy deficiencies.

Tuesday, Visalia Unified School District considered a letter excoriating Newsom and decrying the state’s continued public school mask mandate.

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.