A teacher adjusts a mask on one of her students at Lafayette Elementary School in Clairemont on the first day back to school. Photo by Chris Stone

California students in kindergarten through 12th grade must still wear face masks when schools reopen in the fall, according to state Department of Public Health guidance released Monday.

The department said the mask requirement is necessary because there is still no vaccine for children under 12 years of age and most schools cannot comply with minimum distancing requirements.

“It is the state’s goal that all students must have access to safe and full in-person instruction for the 2021-22 school year,” the department said, but added, “Recent evidence indicates that in-person instruction can occur safely without minimum physical distancing requirements when other mitigation strategies (such as masking) are fully implemented.”

Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the state Health & Human Services Agency, said masking remains effective and eliminates to need to question students about their medical history.

“Masking is a simple and effective intervention that does not interfere with offering full in-person instruction,” he said. “At the outset of the new year, students should be able to walk into school without worrying about whether they will feel different or singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated — treating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment.”

The guidance comes as the new “delta” variant of coronavirus is leading to a spike in cases throughout the country.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.