On the first school day that face coverings weren’t required on California’s K-12 campuses, many students across the Inland Empire ditched masks Monday, March 14 — while others kept theirs on.
Many shed face coverings, for example, in Temecula schools.
“After 24 months of mandates, it is wonderful to be allowed to encourage students, staff, and parents to do what they believe is best,” Temecula Valley Unified School District Superintendent Jodi McClay said in an email.
“TVUSD is thrilled to be entering the next and hopefully final phase of the pandemic,” McClay added.
She is characterized by the first day out from under the statewide mandate as “extremely positive and smooth … kids and teachers are busy teaching and learning.”
In eastern Los Angeles County, Pomona Unified School District spokesperson Oliver Unaka estimated that about 40% of students came to Pomona schools on Monday without face coverings.
But that meant more than half still wore masks — in large part, Unaka suggested, because “COVID really ravaged this part of town.”
“We are mindful of students who continue to wear masks for their own health reasons, or perhaps for grandparents who are at home,” he said. “We respect everyone’s right to do what makes the most sense for them.”
At Rubidoux High School in Riverside County, 385 students watched performances by the school choir, orchestra and band Monday morning inside the gymnasium, said Jacquie Paul, spokesperson for the Jurupa Unified School District. Many in the audience didn’t wear masks at the Jurupa Valley campus, she said. The majority did.
Some choir members wore masks while they sang, Paul said.
The concert was to observe of national Music in Our Schools Month.
At some Inland schools, students couldn’t wait to remove masks.
One was Michelle Turner’s daughter, who in February protested along with more than 100 classmates at Norco Intermediate School against California’s K-12 mask mandate.
“She was very happy to be in school, in person, and seeing everybody’s smile,” Turner said.
The San Bernardino City Unified School District is considered keeping a mandate in place in one of the region’s largest public school systems. But district spokesperson Ginger Ontiveros said the San Bernardino school board opted to stay in step with the lifting of the statewide mandate.
The board decision followed a survey that found 52% of San Bernardino parents wanting a face-covering mandate to continue locally, Ontiveros said.
However, she said, the survey found that the overall preference is for not having a mandate. When the wishes of district teachers and staffers are combined with those of parents, 52% of all survey responders prefer that masking be optional going forward.
“We will continue to provide them for anybody who needs them,” she said.