District keeps mask mandate through school year, to align with CDPH in June

Although+the+mask+mandate+will+remain+in+place+until+the+end+of+May%2C+summer+school+sessions+will+operate+according+to+the+policy+of+the+California+Department+of+Health+in+June.

Jake Rothstein

Although the mask mandate will remain in place until the end of May, summer school sessions will operate according to the policy of the California Department of Health in June.

Elise Spenner, Copy Editor

The San Mateo Union High School District Board of Trustees voted 4-1 on the evening of May 5 to keep its indoor mask mandate in place for the remainder of the school year. On June 1, in advance of summer school sessions, the district will align itself with the guidelines of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The CDPH currently advises that schools follow a strongly recommended policy for masking; if that policy still applies on June 1, the district will remove its mandate to meet it. 

The Board’s decision followed a revised recommendation made mid-meeting by Superintendent Kevin Skelly: keep masks for the school year and move to the CDPH guideline immediately after. This compromise garnered the support of every Board member except Trustee Ligia Andrade Zúñiga. 

“We are not all in the same situation where we can just isolate or we can just quarantine, just that simple. Our district is not cookie cutter, I’m sorry,” Zúñiga said. “I do not feel like we should change this right now.”

Initially, Skelly advised the Board to move to a “strongly recommended” policy for the remainder of the month, as well as for summer school and the 2022-23 school year. However, Board discussion made it clear that Trustees Robert Griffin, Greg Land and Linda Lees Dwyer were hesitant to do so, and Zúñiga was firmly against such a move. Although the majority of the trustees wanted to eventually align with the CDPH guidelines, they wished to do so without fearing that cases would rise, risking vulnerable populations and student participation in end-of-year events like graduation and Advanced Placement testing. Skelly clarified that no decision has been made on a mask policy for Burlingame’s indoor prom on May 21.

“I’m concerned about the change at this point in time with just three weeks to go, and the possible effects it could have on students who have studied all year for those [Advanced Placement] tests, finals coming up,” Dwyer said. “All these events that are coming. If someone misses their graduation because of this… I hate to see this kind of stuff happen.”

Skelly’s original recommendation also asked the Board to remove the policy that requires unvaccinated students to test weekly in order to participate in extracurricular activities. However, Skelly chose to table consideration of the policy until a future meeting and gather staff input in the meantime.