California drops indoor student mask mandate

The San Mateo County Community College District is still requiring masks


Ama Bayar

Three Skyline students sport masks as the mandate continues to be in-place.

Students and staff in California are no longer required to wear masks indoors at school regardless of vaccination status as of March 12.

Although the mandate is now abolished, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other health experts around the state are still heavily recommending masks in child care facilities and K-12 schools. Individual school districts and county health departments are allowed to defy the development and continue with their protocols.

The San Mateo County Community College District schools are among the few around the state that still have masking requirements for indoor operations. As a result, employees, students, and visitors will still be required to wear a mask in all indoor settings on district property, regardless of vaccination status.

The district said in February that they would continue to stay the course and allow for the appropriate time to consult with stakeholder groups and discuss policy with the board of trustees. San Mateo County lifted most indoor mask restrictions on Feb. 16.

“From what I know, most students prefer masks,” said Ashley Garcia, the district’s student trustee. “However, many students don’t. I think given the statistics and policies set by the county, that it would make sense to move towards an optional mask mandate, it seems like a reasonable compromise.”

Garcia says she will be contacting the student governments of Skyline College, the College of San Mateo, and Cañada College before the upcoming board meeting on March 23.

“Another idea I will be sharing with the board is that students should be given a heads-up on the decision and that it doesn’t take place the day after the board meeting but a week or two after,” Garcia said.

She also notes the possible pushback from students regarding the issue.

“This will cause some frustration, however, I believe there is a big majority of students who are ready for this,” Garcia said. “But I believe this should only be put in place if the polls show this.”

San Francisco State University (SFSU) and San Jose State University (SJSU) are both still requiring students to wear masks. SJSU’s continuation of the mandate comes after a March 1 letter from Interim President Steve Perez.

“Today, I’m asking for your patience,” Perez wrote to the school’s community. “Although Santa Clara County is discontinuing its indoor mask requirement, we will keep ours in effect until further notice. Like you, I will welcome the opportunity to pull off the mask and once again see smiles across our campus. That day will come if we are careful now.”

As of March 14, San Mateo County now has a 95.5% vaccination rate among residents ages 18-49, according to the county’s COVID-19 data The county’s rate is 87.1%, strong enough for fourth among other counties in the state.

Diana Renteria is a psychology major at Skyline College and welcomes any path the district decides to take on face-coverings.

“I mean, I personally don’t really mind because I’ve gotten used to wearing a mask,” Renteria said. “So whatever they choose I really don’t mind. They’ve stopped the spread during the return to campus.”

Skyline College, College of San Mateo, and Cañada College will continue to have surgical and N95 masks available at the entrance of each building.