The Manhattan Beach Unified School District has announced that it will be lifting its outdoor masking requirement for elementary and middle school students after winter break, due to the new availability of vaccines for that age group.
The outdoor mask requirement - which currently only applies to K-8 students - is a key part of the "modified quarantine" rules for students exposed to the virus, according to MBUSD Superintendent John Bowes.
The modified quarantine allows students exposed to someone who is COVID-positive to remain in school instead of missing school for ten days as
they would under a traditional quarantine program. As long as staff can verify that the close
contact of a positive case was masked (and the positive case was masked)
during all moments in close contact, the close contact can continue to
date, more 200 MBUSD students have been able to benefit from in-person
instruction because of the modified quarantine rules, said Bowes. Collectively, these students have been in school for 2000 more days of
school than they would have been under traditional quarantine rules.
High school students have not needed to follow this protocol because they have been eligible for (and a vast majority have received) the vaccine. Preschool students are not required to follow this protocol under Los Angeles County Department of Public Health rules.
And while some middle schoolers are older than 12
and eligible for vaccination, there is no way to differentiate between
and eighth graders when all students are outside in between periods and
at lunch, according to Bowes.
The K-8 outdoor masking requirement has come under criticism from a vocal group of parents who have complained about it at recent school board meetings.
However, the introduction of a vaccination for students ages 5-11 promises new relief for elementary and middle school aged children.
"With the vaccine available to students ages 5 to 11
now, families have the opportunity to get a first dose before
Thanksgiving and a second dose between Thanksgiving and winter break,
which would mean that children could be fully vaccinated - two weeks after the second dose - prior to returning to school in
January," Bowes told DigMB. "Fully vaccinated individuals who are close contacts do not need
to quarantine, so the need to verify full masking in order to implement
the modified quarantine will be greatly reduced
as more and more of our students become fully vaccinated."
94.2 % of MBUSD Students Ages 12-18 Have Received Vaccine
Manhattan Beach parents and students appear to have widely embraced the vaccine.
Overall, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, 89% of Manhattan Beach residents age 12 and up have received at least their first dose of the vaccine.
Within MBUSD, 94.2% percent of kids ages 12-18 have received at least the first dose of the vaccine.
A series of local vaccine clinics for children ages 5-11 have been extremely well attended, according to the Beach Cities Health District.
A second round of school vaccine clinics will take place in the Beach Cities during the two weeks after Thanksgiving. (The Manhattan Beach clinic will take place on December 8 at Pacific Elementary.)
"As a reminder, the availability of vaccinations
for students ages 5 to 11 is one of a number of personal and shared
practices that we can all engage in," noted Bowes. "Those practices also include our
daily required RUVNA health screener, hand washing,
cough etiquette, being aware of social distancing, wearing a mask,
participating in our weekly on-campus COVID testing program."
Bowes added, "However, please know there is no
locally-mandated COVID vaccine or booster requirement for students, nor
has this been a topic of discussion with our Board of Trustees."