Frequently Asked Questions - California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Face Covering Requirements in K-12 School Settings
Last Updated March 9, 2022
What’s the latest with mask requirements in schools?
A: Beginning March 12, the state strongly recommends that masks be worn indoors on school campuses, but will no longer require them to be worn. It is also strongly recommended that people who cannot wear a face covering due to a medical condition wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, if their condition permits it. Schools must develop and implement local protocols to provide a mask to students who inadvertently fail to bring a face covering to school and desire to use one. Counties and local educational agencies (districts, charters, and private schools) can require masks if they choose.
Will the County of San Diego be more restrictive than the California Department of Public Health guidelines?
A: We anticipate the County of San Diego will align its requirements with California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance.
Will the San Diego County Office of Education require masks for schools?
A: The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is here to support districts and charter schools in following state and local guidelines. It does not mandate any kind of safety measure or enforcement of those safety measures and does not have any authority to require or not require masks in schools.
Can a district or school still require masks? How can I find out what my district or school will require?
A: Yes, districts and schools can be more restrictive than the state recommendation and require masks. Check with your district or school leader to see if they plan to implement any local policies on masking.
Is there a difference in state guidance on masking for vaccinated and unvaccinated people?
A: No. But your school district, charter school, or private school can establish mask requirements tied to vaccination status. Check with your school leaders to see if they plan to implement any local policies on masking.
How does the updated state mask guidance apply to youth sports?
A: Masks will be strongly recommended indoors, but not required for:
referees, officials, coaches, and other support staff
- All spectators and observers
at all times when not actively practicing, conditioning, competing
- Athletes participating in indoor sports, with weekly testing recommended when masks are not used.
Check with your district or school leader for specifics.
How does the updated mask guidance apply to performing arts programs?
A: Masks and instrument bell covers will be strongly recommended during indoor meetings, practices, performances and competitions for:
- Performers, teachers, officials, coaches, and other support staff
- All spectators and observers
When masks or bell covers cannot be used indoors it is also strongly recommended that individuals maintain a minimum of 3 feet of physical distancing between participants, and undergo screening testing at least once weekly, unless they had COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
Check with your district or school leaders for specifics.
How does the guidance apply to school buses?
A: Masks will be strongly recommended in indoor spaces including school buses, which are classified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a school setting rather than public transportation. Check with your district or school for their requirements.
Does the new mask guideline apply to staff/teachers as well?
A: Schools can allow employees to make an individual choice on masking in most indoor settings, but may also establish their own requirements. Check with your district or school leader for specifics.
Does the indoors mask mandate for schools apply to school board meetings?
A: The state strongly recommends that masks be worn indoors, but does not require it. However school boards have the authority to require masks at board meetings. Check with your school district for specifics.
Are there some situations where masks will be required?
A: SDCOE is still seeking clarification on this question but it seems likely masks will continue to be required at COVID-19 test sites, in health offices, when a person develops symptoms at school or work, and when a person is returning to school or work within 10 days after being identified as a close contact or developing COVID-19 symptoms.
How does this change affect modified quarantine?
A: Modified quarantine is only available if the student who was exposed and the COVID-positive person were both masked indoors during their close contacts with each other. But the CDPH recommends that schools shift to the “group tracing” approach, which uses a "test to stay" strategy for students who are exposed in a school setting.
Are unvaccinated school staff still required to test weekly after March 11?
A: Yes. According to the CDPH, it is likely this requirement will remain in effect until the vaccine mandate takes effect.
What is the latest on the vaccine mandate?
A: Under a proposal from Gov. Newsom, if a COVID-19 vaccine is given full authorization for ages 12-15 before July 1, 2022, and if the CDPH completes the regulatory process before July 1, the vaccination could then be required for students in grades 7 through 12 to attend school unless they have a medical exemption. If approved after June 30 but before Dec. 31, 2022, it could then be required for students in grades 7 through 12 to return to school in January 2023.
Will there be more changes to school guidance?
A: The CDPH has released the following updates which will take effect on March 12:
For Local Educational Agencies Still Requiring Masks
Which individuals are exempt from wearing a face covering in a K-12 school setting?
A: CDPH guidance indicates the following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:
- Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
- Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
- Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
- Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
What options do parents have if they are not comfortable having their child attend school when masks are not required indoors?
A: Independent study is one option. Please contact your district or school administrator to learn more.
Is Independent Study an optional program that students cannot be assigned to involuntarily?
A: Yes. Pursuant to Ed. Code section 51747(g)(8), LEAs must include a statement in each Independent Study agreement that Independent Study is an optional educational alternative in which no pupil is required to enroll in.