Cases rise after school relaxes indoor masking policy according to county recommendations


Will Sherwood/Chronicle

Logan Azizzideh ’24 takes notes during a lecture in his Honors Algebra II course. For the first time in more than two years, Azizzideh was able to attend a class without having to wear a mask after the administration removed the school’s indoor mask requirement.

Natalie Cosgrove

The Community Health Office (CHO) announced in an all-school email the school will be lifting the mandatory mask mandate, meaning masks will be strongly recommended but not required on campus starting March 9. The school made the decision in response to the school’s case count decreasing significantly and Los Angeles County lifting its mask mandate, according to the email.

“One of the reasons that the school is confident in its decision to follow [Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH)] guidance with respect to indoor masking is that case rates on campus remain very low,” the email said. “Since early February, the number of cases on campus each week has been in the low single digits.”

The email said the individual PCR testing program will remain in practice at least through the week of April 16, in addition to a number of other current COVID-19 protocols including testing before special events, requiring guests to show proof of vaccination and the return-to-school protocol for students who contract COVID-19.

Following the initial March 9 email, both Head of Upper School Beth Slattery and President Rick Commons sent emails to the student body reiterating the sentiments of the school’s previous protocol email on March 11 and 16, respectively. Slattery said she expects students and faculty to respect the boundaries of students who are hesitant of the change in rules.

“While this news is a welcome respite for many in our community, there are also many for whom this change is unsettling,” Slattery said. “My request of all of you is that you respect the choices of every individual around masking, understanding that everyone’s personal and family circumstances are different.”

Commons said he made the informed decision to lift the mandate, both ensuring to follow guidelines but also keeping the student body in mind.

“I think what makes me excited about [the change] is it is a step forward in our return to normalcy,” Commons said. “We are following the guidelines and recommendations provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health [LAPDH]. It’s not just that [the school] feels that the risk is diminishing from COVID-19, but the Department of Health, which has been quite conservative relative to other regions of the state and around the country, has clearly come to the conclusion that the risk is diminished.”

In Commons’ follow-up March 16 email, he said in the weeks following the announcement, COVID-19 cases have risen in the school community.

“I want to let you know that our case counts over the last two weeks have ticked up,” Commons said in an email. “While we have recorded only a handful of positive cases at the Middle School, at the Upper School, the number is now over 10. While we are not reverting back to an indoor masking requirement, I want to remind everyone that indoor masking is strongly recommended as a way to protect yourself and others in the community.”

Bill Coleman ’24 said he is excited about the recent mandate change and believes it will improve social interactions.

“I believe removing the mask mandate is a very positive change for the school,” Coleman said. “COVID-19 has lasted over two years now and I think most people are tired of wearing the mask. Personally, I believe removing the mask will help my learning so I will not be wearing it in any of my classes. I think it will benefit the community because people will learn better and start returning to normal.”

History and Interdisciplinary Studies and Independent Research Teacher Dror Yaron said he believes removing the mandate will allow for a better classroom environment.

“Fundamentally, dropping the mask mandate will be a liberating policy, and I feel that as we ‘follow the science,’ we can adjust accordingly if need be,” Yaron said. “But it is high time to unmask [and] reveal the gleaming smiles and thus engage the whole person in a robust here and now exchange. It will bring more closeness between our student body which will savor the opportunity to reconnect on a more intimate level. It’ll also improve the class dynamic immeasurably. We can sharpen our hearing in our class conversations and unleash our intellectual fortitude more fully and dynamically.”M