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Several La Jolla private schools drop mask mandates; SDUSD and Country Day are waiting until April

The Bishop's School lifted its mask mandate March 14 in line with new state guidance.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Following the California Department of Public Health’s transition from a universal indoor school mask mandate to a “strong recommendation” for masks beginning after March 11, some La Jolla schools have revisited their COVID-19 masking policies and shifted to reflect the new state guidelines.

Several local private schools are allowing students and staff members to unmask, while at least one private school as well as all the public schools in the San Diego Unified School District are requiring faces to be covered a few weeks longer.

The district’s announcement comes a day after the CDC classifies San Diego County as having ‘low’ levels of COVID-19.

Private schools

In a letter sent to families Feb. 28, The Bishop’s School stated that masks are recommended indoors but no longer would be required beginning March 14.

Bishop’s Assistant Head of School Michael Beamer said March 14 that the school has seen a mix of students in masks and without. “It’s been a very quiet response,” he said.

San Diego French American School sent an email to parents March 10, dropping the mask mandate as of March 14 and shifting to a strong recommendation.

“I have carefully weighed COVID concerns and the academic and social-emotional needs of our students,” Head of School Mark Rosenblum wrote.

The Evans School is no longer requiring masks as of March 14, according to Sarah Brumfield, director of enrollment and communication.

Stella Maris Academy also transitioned from a mask mandate March 14. Principal Francie Moss said the shift has been received positively by parents.

Gillispie School declined to comment, and The Children’s School did not respond to requests for comment.

S.D. Unified and La Jolla Country Day

San Diego Unified, which operates five public schools in La Jolla, will no longer require masks when students return from spring break Monday, April 4, though public information coordinator Mike Murad said SDUSD will continue “to highly encourage masks.”

The district’s change in mask policy “also applies to school buses, athletics, extracurricular activities, before- and after-school programs and early-childhood education programs,” Murad said.

The private La Jolla Country Day School also is waiting until students return from spring break on Monday, April 11, to drop its mask mandate. Head of School Gary Krahn said in a March 7 letter to the campus community that the school will “strongly recommend” masking.

Schools had required masks indoors since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Many dropped the mandate outdoors in February this year.

California has not required masks indoors in most public settings since March 1.

The debate over school masks and other COVID-related measures has been heated at times throughout San Diego County, including La Jolla. On Feb. 17, a few La Jolla Elementary School parents had their children unmask and refuse to comply with the indoor mask policy. The following week, groups of students and their parents rallied in front of Torrey Pines Elementary School to support masking and other COVID safety measures in schools.

As masks get left at home, schools will hang on to some COVID mitigations, such as coronavirus testing and air filtration.

Beamer said Bishop’s is no longer requiring student testing for the virus, though unvaccinated employees are still required to test weekly.

“It feels fairly normal on campus,” he said.

San Diego French American School will continue weekly at-home antigen testing and is providing KN95 and N95 masks upon request, plus carbon dioxide monitoring, promotion of vaccines and boosters and other measures.

Rosenblum said protocols will be revisited often. “Since this whole thing began, no decision is considered to be permanent at any time. If necessary, the school will make adjustments.”

Brumfeld said The Evans School no longer requires asymptomatic testing but will follow county guidance on symptomatic testing and testing following COVID-19 exposure.

Moss said Stella Maris also is not requiring asymptomatic testing but “will do whatever it takes to keep our students healthy and in school while allowing parents to make important health decisions for their children.”

Krahn said that “to ensure a safe return to campus after spring break, [LJCDS will] require all students, faculty and staff to submit two negative antigen test results before returning to campus. Our COVID-19 mitigation protocols (well-ventilated classrooms, CO2 monitoring, cleaning procedures and promotion of proper hygiene) are still in place.”

“We will continue monitoring local conditions and are prepared to adjust our protocols as necessary for the health of our community,” Krahn added.

At San Diego Unified, “all other COVID-19 mitigation strategies and policies remain in effect,” Murad said, including enhanced ventilation and filtration; weekly coronavirus testing; handwashing encouraged before and after lunch; social distancing when possible; self-screening for symptoms; case management and contact tracing; limiting on-campus visitors and volunteers to those who are essential; and adhering to up-to-date indoor and outdoor guidance for special events, assemblies and large group activities, including school dances. ◆