Jessica Cejnar / Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021 @ 4:47 p.m.

Students Will Wear Masks Indoors, Physical Distancing to be Kept to a Minimum, DNUSD Superintendent Says


Students will have to be masked indoors when they start school on Aug. 30. File photo: Andrew Goff

Though guidance will likely change throughout the fall, students coming back to school on Aug. 30 will be required to wear masks indoors, Del Norte County’s superintendent of schools says.

Adults will also be required to wear masks when they’re interacting with students at school, Del Norte Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Harris told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Thursday.

Masks aren’t required for vaccinated adults who are interacting with other vaccinated adults in a room with no students, Harris said, citing California Department of Public Health guidance released Monday.

“There are counties that have gone much more restrictive than CDPH guidance and there are counties that have gone a lot less restrictive than CDPH guidance,” he said. “Currently, we do not have a public health officer or a deputy public health officer so we’re following CDPH.”

Harris gave a rundown of the most recent CDPH guidance during a webinar for parents Wednesday. His webinar and the guidance comes a few days after local health officials confirmed that the Delta variant was in Del Norte County and during a surge of COVID-19 cases.

DNUSD is also in the middle of its second summer school session and is continuing to follow the same guidelines around social distancing and masking that were in place during the 2020-21 school year, Harris said. This includes contact tracing for the students that have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he said.

Come Aug. 30, however, things will be different. For one thing, though students will be masked, physical distancing won’t be required, Harris said.

“Every child every day — full day — will be in a typically organized classroom,” he said. “We are going to encourage maximizing distance between desks, eliminating extraneous pieces of furniture, but overall there are no distancing requirements.”

Harris again referred to CDPH guidance, which states that since the virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by aerosol contact and less frequently by droplets, masks “are one of the most effective measures for source control.”

“Therefore, masks best promote both safety and in-person learning by reducing the need for physical distancing,” CDPH’s guidance states.

DNUSD has hired more teachers to ensure class sizes are low and to eliminate combination classes, Harris said. He added that between 70 and 100 students may choose independent study when school resumes.

“We’ve hired teachers for those classes as well,” he said. “We think what we’ll see and what we’re planning on are some lower class sizes than you would see in a normal year.”

Quarantine practices can also be modified, according to Harris.
Last year if a student was a close contact to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, he or she had to quarantine for about 14 days, Harris said.

This year a student wearing a mask can stay at school even if they were in contact with another masked person who tested positive for COVID-19 as long as they’re asymptomatic, Harris said. This includes unvaccinated students, he said.

However, they must undergo weekly testing during the 10-day quarantine period and quarantine for all extracurricular activities including sports, according to CDPH.

“They don’t have to walk out the door,” he said. “It also means we don't have to close classrooms.”

When asked about vaccinations, staff self-report their status to the district, Harris said, especially when unvaccinated individuals were required to wear masks.

The district have information from the Public Health Branch concerning the number of students who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, Harris said.

Since the vaccine is still being used under Emergency Use Authorization through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the state cannot yet require students get the vaccine, he said.


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