The Chula Vista Elementary School District Board of Education allowed for flexibility in their mask policy as the Center for Desease Control and Prevention (CDC) decides to grant emergency authorization of younger children for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Pfizer announced on Monday that the COVID vaccine will be safe for children between the ages of 5 to 11 and will seek authorization from the United States soon. In partnership with the German company, BioNTech, they made the vaccine available to anyone over the age of 12 back in August.
Students and teachers are now on campus amid the extremely contagious Delta variant. With 49 campuses spanning across the South Bay serving approximately 29,600 students, the CVESD could potentially qualify for the vaccine if approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
“The possibility of vaccinating students from the ages of 5 to 11. That to me is a potential game changer to our system. A lot of ramifications that will be implemented if it becomes recommended and or required. There are a lot of pieces to it. So that is a big deal,” CVESD Director of Communications and Community Development Anthony Millican said.
The mask policy was clarified and modified during the Board of Education’s Sept.15 special meeting as there appeared to be a misunderstanding in the district’s mask policies in addition to parental concerns. “We did receive a few parent concerns during the heatwave some weeks back and it was very difficult for students to have a mask on while doing physical education, playing while at recess, during the heatwave. Especially if you know anything about Chula Vista, at our eastern schools it does get hotter quite a bit compared to the ones that are closer to the bay,” Millican said.
The district is allowing flexibility on the mask policy, allowing for staff members to remove their masks if alone in a classroom or office, teachers giving instruction virtually if there are only two people in the classroom. The district says those classrooms will get an additional air filter. Students may remove their mask during outdoor or recess activities.“As you know, the CDC guidelines require students to have masks indoors but not outdoors. For a while there was some confusion about that. The board clarified the guidelines to make sure everybody was on the same page and we issued that clarification to our schools,” Millican said.
All 49 campuses district wide have an air purification system for every class room containing one adult and up to 24 students. For classrooms with two instructors, there will be two air purifiers.
“Students will be able to remove their masks outdoors. Our schools will make every effort to serve meals outdoors. Where cafeterias or group dining rooms must be used, our schools will work to keep students together in their stable groups, and practice physical distance as much as possible. Additionally, our schools will practice and emphasize hand hygiene before and after eating” a district issued notice read.
As of Sept.17, the CVESD reported 39 students and 5 members with COVID-19. Updates will be posted on a weekly basis. Students have returned to school from break on Oct.1, as CVESD testing sites remain open.