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Stricter Outdoor Masking Rules to Return to Schools

Jan 02, 2022 11:00AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
A new L.A. County Public Health order issued on January 1 will require masks to be worn outdoors at schools in crowded spaces, except when students are eating or drinking. The order applies to all public and private schools in L.A. County.

The health order comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are on a sharp rise in L.A. County and Manhattan Beach. On December 31 - the most recent date for which numbers are available - L.A. County hit a new record high with more than 27,000 new cases and Manhattan Beach recorded 94 new cases.

The new rules specify the following for all L.A. County public and private schools, which include Manhattan Beach schools:

  • Masking is now required for all outdoor activities where physical distancing "cannot be easily or reliably maintained," except while eating or drinking.
  • Staff are required to wear upgraded masks (surgical mask or higher level PPE).
  • Students are strongly recommended to wear masks that are well-fitting, non-cloth masks of multiple layers of non-woven material with a nose wire.
Masking continues to be required at all times indoors; and students and staff are strongly urged to get vaccinated and boosted.

Schools will have two weeks to comply with the new rules, according to the public health department.

How the rules will be implemented at Manhattan Beach schools remains to be seen. Prior to the winter break, the Manhattan Beach public schools required outdoor masking for elementary and middle school students, but had been prepared to lift that requirement when school returns on Monday. Also prior to the winter break, outdoor masking had been encouraged, but not required, for Mira Costa High School students.

In an email to parents on Monday, MBUSD Superintendent John Bowes wrote, "The MBUSD outdoor mask requirement for elementary and middle schools moving from ‘required’ to ‘strongly encouraged’ on the return from the winter break aligns with the LACDPH outdoor mask requirement. We strongly encourage all preschool, elementary, middle school and high school students to wear masks outdoors in crowded spaces where physical distancing is not feasible , except when actively eating or drinking. Principals will have discretion to make site-specific outdoor mask decisions related to how lunch areas, passing periods, and different recess, campus activities and other events are handled."  

Upgraded Masks Recommended

The new rules say that all students ages 2 and older are required to wear masks while outdoors on campus when in crowded settings, and in other outdoor spaces where distancing is not possible or practical.

It is "strongly recommended but not required" that students wear upgraded masks. A recommended mask is defined as "a well-fitting, non-cloth mask of multiple layers of non-woven material with a nose wire." Schools are not required to provide masks to their students. 

An upgraded level of masking may be required for a limited time in special circumstances such as a student in school who was recently isolating after illness and/or a positive test or recently exposed to a confirmed case.

The health order says that school employees are now required to wear higher grade masks. Surgical masks are a minimum requirement. Higher level PPE (e.g., KN95 or N95 respirator) masks may also be considered.

Testing Available at Schools

Voluntary COVID testing will be available at Manhattan Beach schools throughout the week. Parents must register their children at this form prior to testing. The testing schedule is as follows:


Mira Costa High School

2:00 - 5:00


Grand View Elementary

8:30 – 11:10

Meadows Elementary

8:30 – 11:10

Pacific Elementary

8:00 – 11:10


MB Preschool

8:30 - 11:10

Mira Costa High School

2:00 – 5:00

Robinson Elementary

8:30 - 11:10


Pennekamp Elementary

8:30 – 11:10


8:00 - 3:00

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