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LAUSD Will No Longer Require Masks Outdoors On Campus

Two adults interact with two young children who are decorating and building with styrofoam blocks at an outdoor work table in a school play yard. All in the picture are wearing face coverings to prevent COVID-19 spread.
L.A. Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho (left) and school board president Kelly Gonez interact with two students at Fair Avenue Early Education Center in North Hollywood on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022.
(Kyle Stokes
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Starting Feb. 22, students at Los Angeles Unified schools will be allowed to go maskless outdoors while on campus. While inside, they’ll have to keep wearing masks for now.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced the “relaxation” in the district’s COVID-19 protocols on Friday.

“I know no matter what we do, there will come some degree of controversy,” Carvalho said in an interview on KTLA-TV. “But look — the medical advisers from a number of reputable universities, as well as our own medical adviser, are siding on the transition to a more relaxed environment.”

Carvalho added: “It is universally accepted that [masking] indoors is still appropriate.”

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Even by California standards, LAUSD schools have been extra cautious in their mask use policies. The district has required students to wear masks both indoors and outdoors since April 2021, when students returned to campuses for the first time since the pandemic’s onset.

At the beginning of this school year, both California and L.A. County health officials advised that schools could allow students to remove their masks in outdoor settings.

Then came the omicron surge: L.A. County officials said schools should require students to begin wearing masks outdoors. Earlier this week, the county’s Department of Public Health said outdoor masking was no longer necessary. The LAUSD change announced Friday brings the school district in line with the latest county advice.

Indoor masking is another story. Earlier this week, California health officials said a blanket indoor mask rule for K-12 schools will stay in effect statewide until at least the end of February, even as the state’s masking requirement lifts for most other indoor settings. However, the state’s top health official promised to revisit the indoor mask rule for schools in the near future, calling the change “a matter of when, not if.”

L.A. County Department of Public Health officials have not lifted their indoor mask mandates, including one for K-12 schools. The department’s director, Barbara Ferrer, said earlier this week that officials may be able to lift L.A.’s indoor mask mandate by “mid- to late-March.” They’ll also “review” the state’s assessment of the K-12 mask mandate, which is due out on Feb. 28.

Even if state and local officials were to lift their school mask mandates, LAUSD’s labor agreement with United Teachers Los Angeles would continue to demand masking. On Feb. 14, union president Cecily Myart-Cruz said it would be “premature” to end mask mandates.

What questions do you have about K-12 education in Southern California?
Kyle Stokes reports on the public education system — and the societal forces, parental choices and political decisions that determine which students get access to a “good” school (and how we define a “good school”).

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