Beginning March 23, LAUSD removed the indoor mask mandate for students and staff after bargaining with United Teachers Los Angeles, UTLA. With the new policy in place, Venice High has been adjusting to a mask-optional way of life.
Currently, the Los Angeles County Health Department is not requiring masks to be worn indoors and is leaving it up to businesses and public institutions to decide if they will require masks.
The Venice High administration sent a message to parents the night before the removal of the mandate.
“We are aligning with the guidance from the state of California and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to make masking strongly recommended but not required at all elementary, secondary, and adult school campuses and in all non-school locations starting on Wednesday, March 23, 2022,” the message said.
“We know some in our school community will continue to wear masks, while others may choose not to. Please consider your situation and do what is best for you and your child.”
LAUSD is now one of several Los Angeles area school districts that removed their indoor mask mandates earlier this month, including Glendale Unified School District, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, and Lancaster Central School District.
History teacher Ahsan Minhas continues to wear his mask, taking extra precautions to keep students and faculty safe.
“I understand why some people would like to go back to a sense of ‘normality’ and go mask-free,” Minhas said. “At the same time, I also understand the different reasons why others choose to keep wearing their masks in school.
“I respect each person’s choice, but if asked I will always tell people that indoor masking is ‘strongly recommended’ by the district and may also be helpful considering the spread of the Omicron subvariant and a potential spike in cases.”
Teachers were asked to vote on the mask mandate and COVID-19 testing through a poll conducted by UTLA.
“The teachers union should get the voice of the teachers before they can represent them,” said math teacher John Bruno, a UTLA member. “I voted for the optional masking.”
UTLA’s proposal was to continue weekly PCR COVID-19 testing through June 30, with optional indoor masking for schools with at least 75% of staff and students fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho will send weekly emails reporting the previous week’s positivity rates.
Science teacher David Terrazas has been doing a project with his students on the virus and vaccines. His goal is to have them use their research to make decisions on mask-wearing.
“At this point, I think most people know the risks and are able to make the decision for themselves. Even within my class doing a project on the virus and vaccine, I told students that I want them to be able to gather information and make their own decisions,” said Terrazas.
Freshman Ruby Martinez has continued to wear her mask indoors even with the removal of the mandate.
“I will continue to wear my mask indoors for the most part,” she said. “I feel safe knowing that I’m vaccinated and others around me are. It’s definitely an adjustment. It makes me personally uncomfortable indoors but outside I’m comfortable without it.”
Some students and staff have been able to express their comfort with the mask mandate, including sophomore Matthew Salazar.
“I don’t have a problem with people not wearing masks as long as people are vaccinated,” he said.
UTLA and LAUSD have now agreed on the removal of the indoor mask mandate and to keep the weekly COVID-19 testing until the end of the school year, which is set to be re-evaluated in the coming months.