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Students in kindergarten through 12th grade and all adults on Chino Valley Unified School District campuses will be required to wear a mask indoors but can remove it while outside when 2021-22 school year begins early next month, the school district announced Tuesday.

The school year begins Monday, Aug. 9 for most of the district’s 20 elementary schools, six junior high schools, and four high schools.

Some students could be exempt from wearing masks indoors based on their medical condition, but they are required to wear a less restrictive covering such as a face shield with a drape at the bottom as long as they maintain physical distance from others, according to the statement from the school district.

District officials said guidelines from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are being followed.

The district will make a decision to either update the policy or suspend masking requirements no later than Monday, Nov. 1.

One student and a few parents spoke July 15 at the board meeting about masking rules for students.

“I believe forcing children and adults to wear masks for seven hours a day is mental and physical abuse and useless,” said Chino Hills High student Casandra Sanchez, whose younger sister attends Glenmeade Elementary in Chino Hills. 

“If one feels they should wear a mask then let themselves wear one. But to tell people how to live, and what to wear when out in public, is pathetic and harassment,” she said.

Casandra told the board she and her sister cannot breathe and often feel dizzy and tired when the school day ends.

Casandra said she is fully vaccinated and asked why there is still a need for masks for vaccinated residents. 

She received applause as she made her way back to her seat.

Parent Nicole Babel said the school board cannot defend the idea of the mask mandate when hundreds, or thousands, of people attend sporting events, concerts and amusement parks without wearing a mask.

“It is absolutely clear that you do not care about the health and well-being of these kids. Your forced mask mandate is unconstitutional and completely ignores scientific facts,” Ms. Babel said. “It’s really simple, remove the mask mandate.”

She blamed the school board for the “blatant refusal to protect the freedoms for our children.”

“That has shown you are nothing more than a power-hungry school board pushing toward totalitarian ideals,” Ms. Babel said. 

One parent spoke in favor of the mask mandate, asking the board to keep students and adults masked until the COVID-19 vaccines are available to children under age 12.

“I can talk on how masks are safe and effective,” Christy Hurst said. “Because the data overwhelming shows they are. There is an abundance of real-world evidence showing that schools with universal mask policies have significantly lower rates of COVID cases than those without.”

She said the Chino Valley community remains vulnerable to COVID, including the current Delta variant of the virus, which she said is twice as contagious.

“Without mandating masks in schools, we are going to see surges, school closures and more preventable deaths. Yes, kids die from COVID,” Ms. Hurst said. “As much as we wish it is over, it simply is not.” 

School board member Andrew Cruz said, “If this board wants your children to wear masks, I think it’s time for a recall.”

San Bernardino County statistics on COVID-19 show 853,979 residents are fully vaccinated and another 126,783 residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

County stats show 196,978 residents live within the Chino Valley Unified school district boundaries and 20,886 positive COVID cases have been reported since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Of those positive cases, 2,391 residents were age 5 to 19, statistics showed as of Thursday afternoon.

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