Message from the Superintendent Dr. Alan Harris
Sierra Unified Approach to CDPH Guidance on Masking in Schools
Provided here is a brief overview of the specifics of the guidance for schools related to school opening and masking. It is followed by the position of the school board, action taken and options explored. Finally, a brief overview of the plan and procedure for the start of the school year.
- CDPH Guidance on school opening: a) there is no longer physical distancing in the classroom. Students and teachers may interact in small groups and other traditional meeting models; b) masking is not required outdoors meaning break, lunch, recess and PE will follow traditional practice; c) masks will be required for all individuals adults and children TK-12 when inside the classroom and on the bus CDPH FAQ; d) Contact tracing will be conducted when a positive case is identified and close contacts that were not masked in the classroom will require quarantine; e) if a large number were not masked it may require quarantine of a class or school depending on number of infected individuals. This guidance will be reviewed on or before November 1, 2021.
- District and board response and position: Beginning in spring of 2021 numerous members of our community including teachers, staff, parents and concerned citizens expressed deep concern regarding the continuation of mask wearing in the fall and the long-term effects it could have on children. A letter was sent in late April to the County Health Department, County Superintendent of Schools and concerns shared with state organizations regarding these concerns and need for choice. In July the school board convened on the matter, heard from the community and directed Superintendent Harris to explore all options to provide choice in mask wearing for students. Meetings with Small School District Association, County Superintendent of Schools, superintendents in Fresno County and across the state insured to explore options such as making masks “strongly recommended” or “non enforcement” in addition to consideration of taking position on masks in opposition to the state requirement. Legal council was presented with and reviewed all options. The legal opinion on those options were reviewed at the board meeting on August second. Given the specifics of the guidance it is shared at the board meeting that all of the above considered options would leave the district and employees legally liable. The board then took action to unanimously approve a resolution being sent up the line from County health, county superintendent, elected representatives at the local and state level, CDPH and the Governor. The superintendent met with other local districts to consider waivers and other ways for families to have a measure of choice.
- Clarification of Policy and Waiver Options: On Wednesday August 3 it was clarified by the county, through legal council and confirmed with other local districts that waiver will require a note from a doctor verifying it is one of the medical conditions and once the waiver is accepted those students will be required to wear a face shield with a drape while in the classroom
- Sierra Unified Practice and Policy for masking: All students and staff will be expected to wear a face covering while inside the classroom. Individuals wanting to request a waiver may meet with the school administration and provide written doctor’s verification. Students unable or unwilling to follow the guidance will be addressed individually through district response to behavior practice.
- We understand the challenge that this presents to families in our community. The district is doing all that we can to advocate for changes that would allow flexibility. That is not possible at this time. Our goal then is to work collectively through this focused to minimize disruption to learning and support one another.