San Jose school districts still require masks for students
Abraham Lincoln High School in the San Jose Unified School District will have to continue wearing masks on campus. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Sorry kids, but you still need to keep your masks on at school.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed mask requirements for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, it recommends K-12 students continue to wear face coverings and keep social distancing.

The CDC based this decision on students not being fully vaccinated by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Even youth ages 12 through 15 who became eligible for the COVID vaccine on May 12 will not be fully immunized before the school year ends.

According to Santa Clara County Public Health, 16,636 or 15.8% of 12- to 15-year-olds in the county have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

A survey by real-time polling firm Invisibly found 74% of parents will either wait or not vaccinate their kids against the coronavirus. Only 26% of parents said they will have their children inoculated right away, 41% will wait a few months and 33% will not vaccinate their kids.

Invisibly surveyed 1,258 parents nationally from March 25 to 29, asking them if and when they’d get their kids vaccinated. Surveys appear on web pages in place of ads and are optional, ensuring voluntary participation.

Laura Vestal, vice president of marketing at Invisibly, said the COVID-19 vaccine is a hot topic, especially when it comes to children.

“Parents are extremely cautious when it comes to their kids,” Vestal said.

East Side Union High School District Superintendent Chris Funk said masks will be required for the remainder of the school year, summer school and possibly into the fall. And students must still remain six feet apart. There are 22,500 students in the school district.

“Since we don’t know who has been vaccinated, anyone on campus should be wearing a mask,” Funk said. “When they’re eating or drinking, they can take them off, but if they’re walking by people, we’re still requiring masks to be worn.”

At Independence High School in the East Side Union High School District, students are required to wear masks in class and on campus. Photo courtesy of ESUHSD.

The district has 1,000 plastic shields per school that teachers must use, but are optional for students. Face shields are also available.

In the future, Funk said students, teachers and faculty may be required to show proof of vaccination.

“Right now, we’re not requiring people to show their vaccination cards,” he said. “Once the vaccines are officially approved by the FDA, then we will move to that being a requirement. We’re going to require teachers to inform us and show us their card now, because if they’re not vaccinated they will be tested weekly. For students… once the FDA officially approves it, it will be like immunizations and required. The board will have to take final action, but I anticipate that is what will happen.”

Jennifer Maddox, spokesperson for San Jose Unified School District, said the expectation is that students and faculty keep their masks on indoors and outside, only removing them to eat or drink. Although the CDC suggests three feet social distancing, the district will maintain six feet.

“That’s not something we’ll adjust this school year,” Maddox said. “We will leave our safety protocols in place through this school year and the end of our summer learning programs.”

Maddox said the district will not require students or employees to be vaccinated.

“We can’t mandate students getting the vaccine,” she said, adding that the district asked employees to provide vaccination records. “I could see us asking students who have been vaccinated to share that information with us, particularly if there is a COVID case they’ve been in close contact with.”

For fall, Maddox said the San Jose Unified School District hopes most middle and high school students will be vaccinated in order to relax some protocols. She said the district understands that “nobody loves wearing a mask all day, employees included.”

“Talking is usually muffled, it’s harder for students to hear and it’s harder for teachers to hear students,” she said. “If we can do so safely, we would like to be able to relax it. But ultimately, we’ll follow what the health experts say.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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