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With school board divided, Ravenswood district votes to drop its mask mandate

Parents watch their children have breakfast on the first day of kindergarten at Los Robles-Ronald McNair Academy in East Palo Alto on Aug. 25, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

For the first time in three years, Ravenswood City School District students and staff won't need to wear face masks in classrooms when they return to campuses on Aug. 24.

Despite comments from two out of the five school board members that the district should keep its indoor mask mandate, at least for the first few weeks of class, the Ravenswood board directed staff on Thursday, Aug. 11, to drop the requirement. Instead, masks will be strongly recommended.

It was an overdue decision, said Trustee Ana Maria Pulido. She also noted KN95 or N95 masks are the only masks that will be effective against spreading the omicron variant, otherwise wearing cloth or surgical masks is just for show.

According to the CDC, cloth masks provide the least protection, well-fitted surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitted respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection.

"I would like for our kids to go back to some level of normalcy," she said. "I don't anticipate our new normal to be wearing masks for the entirety of our lives. … I don't think we're doing the right thing for our students; it's overly cautious."

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Trustees Bronwyn Alexander and Jenny Varghese Bloom supported a more conservative approach. Superintendent Gina Sudaria suggested a compromise: start with masks for one month and commit to revisiting the issue.

Vice President Tamara Sobomehin and President Mele Latu agreed with Pulido that it was time to get rid of the indoor mask mandate.

Last school year, district staff had cited elevated rates of COVID-19 in East Palo Alto, along with lower-than-county-average vaccination rates, for continuing to mandate face masks despite other neighboring districts dropping their mask mandates last spring.

The decision brings the district into alignment with state and county guidelines on mask use at schools.

The Mountain View Whisman School District is the only local school district that's kept its indoor mask mandate.

Those in support of keeping the mandate

Ravenswood Teachers Union President Ronda White supported keeping the mask mandate in place.

"I would like to come back to school with the mask on and see what it looks like," she said. She said she'd like to anonymously survey teachers to gather their views on masks in classrooms.

Varghese Bloom said the district will see a surge of cases if masks come off, and would like to see 75% of students vaccinated at each school site before dropping mask mandates.

Data from March 2022 showed that only about 43% of students were vaccinated, but the district will get an update on these figures when students return to school, said Strategic Pandemic Recovery Consultant Ann Waterman Roy.

A letter to families on the new guidance can be viewed here.

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Angela Swartz
 
Angela Swartz joined The Almanac in 2018 and covers education and small towns. She has a background covering education, city politics and business. Read more >>

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With school board divided, Ravenswood district votes to drop its mask mandate

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 15, 2022, 9:16 am

For the first time in three years, Ravenswood City School District students and staff won't need to wear face masks in classrooms when they return to campuses on Aug. 24.

Despite comments from two out of the five school board members that the district should keep its indoor mask mandate, at least for the first few weeks of class, the Ravenswood board directed staff on Thursday, Aug. 11, to drop the requirement. Instead, masks will be strongly recommended.

It was an overdue decision, said Trustee Ana Maria Pulido. She also noted KN95 or N95 masks are the only masks that will be effective against spreading the omicron variant, otherwise wearing cloth or surgical masks is just for show.

According to the CDC, cloth masks provide the least protection, well-fitted surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitted respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection.

"I would like for our kids to go back to some level of normalcy," she said. "I don't anticipate our new normal to be wearing masks for the entirety of our lives. … I don't think we're doing the right thing for our students; it's overly cautious."

Trustees Bronwyn Alexander and Jenny Varghese Bloom supported a more conservative approach. Superintendent Gina Sudaria suggested a compromise: start with masks for one month and commit to revisiting the issue.

Vice President Tamara Sobomehin and President Mele Latu agreed with Pulido that it was time to get rid of the indoor mask mandate.

Last school year, district staff had cited elevated rates of COVID-19 in East Palo Alto, along with lower-than-county-average vaccination rates, for continuing to mandate face masks despite other neighboring districts dropping their mask mandates last spring.

The decision brings the district into alignment with state and county guidelines on mask use at schools.

The Mountain View Whisman School District is the only local school district that's kept its indoor mask mandate.

Those in support of keeping the mandate

Ravenswood Teachers Union President Ronda White supported keeping the mask mandate in place.

"I would like to come back to school with the mask on and see what it looks like," she said. She said she'd like to anonymously survey teachers to gather their views on masks in classrooms.

Varghese Bloom said the district will see a surge of cases if masks come off, and would like to see 75% of students vaccinated at each school site before dropping mask mandates.

Data from March 2022 showed that only about 43% of students were vaccinated, but the district will get an update on these figures when students return to school, said Strategic Pandemic Recovery Consultant Ann Waterman Roy.

A letter to families on the new guidance can be viewed here.

Comments

Joseph E. Davis
Registered user
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 15, 2022 at 9:30 am
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
Registered user
on Aug 15, 2022 at 9:30 am

Masks essentially do nothing at this point in the pandemic. There is little science to recommend their use, and what there is is low quality.

They do have a tremendous value to Covid neurotics as a quasi-religious totem to ward off evil spirits. Unfortunately, Covid neurotics love to force others to participate in their unscientific rituals. Even more unfortunately they seem to have no regard to the damage this does to children, not to mention society at large.


Mark Dinan
Registered user
another community
on Aug 15, 2022 at 12:46 pm
Mark Dinan, another community
Registered user
on Aug 15, 2022 at 12:46 pm

East Palo Alto has very high COVID rates right now, and something like 10% of residents have had COVID in the last month. 46 people have died of COVID in EPA, a shockingly high number in a community that does not have nursing homes or care facilities with high death rates. Last week, I was unable to obtain ANY over the counter COVID tests at Ravenswood Clinic, Target, the YMCA, or the testing site in the Ravenswood Shopping Center.

Kids most likely will not be adversely affected by COVID, but will be bringing it home to overcrowded houses where elders and other at risk people will be exposed. Teachers, administrators, and support staff are all at risk of long COVID, hospitalization, or death if they get COVID.

I fully understand why Board Members wanted to keep the mask mandate in place.


Resident
Registered user
another community
on Aug 15, 2022 at 7:44 pm
Resident , another community
Registered user
on Aug 15, 2022 at 7:44 pm

Mark, in what source do you find the 46 deaths in EPA from COVID and the 3,000 people infected (10% of about 30,000 residents) with COVID over the past month?

Does the source (or sources) provide comparable rates of current infection and death in neighboring zip codes?


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