- Helms Middle School
WCCUSD to Strongly Recommend Masks Starting March 14
Dear WCCUSD community:
For over two years, the COVID-19 virus has presented us all with immense challenges and has had a major impact on all of our lives. Throughout the difficulties, I am extremely proud of our community and the extensive strides we have made together to keep one another safe.
At the school board meeting last week, we shared that 87 percent of WCCUSD students ages 12+ are either partially or fully vaccinated. Over 90 percent of our staff are vaccinated as well. This is an achievement that took a lot of work, and many people contributed and can be proud. We are now focusing on making sure the remaining students and staff who are not vaccinated understand the importance of getting vaccinated before the July 1, 2022 mandate.
As we look around our county, COVID-19 caseloads have dropped drastically in the past few weeks and is now rated by CDC as a low community level. During the Omicron surge in January 2022, we had a weekly high of 732 students test positive across our district. This week, there were 25 student cases. Staff cases have also dropped precipitously during this same time period, from 70 then to 5 this week. You can view the numbers on the chart below and on our COVID Dashboard.
There has also been a large decline in cases in Richmond and San Pablo, the two areas in our district that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19.
- Richmond: January = 9,528 cases; February = 1,227 cases; March = 97 (through 3/9/22)
- San Pablo: January = 4,995 cases, February = 717 cases, March = 59 (through 3/9/22)
Here are the positivity rates for Richmond and San Pablo:
- Richmond: January = 22.5%, February = 6.3%, March = 2.0%
- San Pablo: January = 25.8%, February = 7.9%, March = 2.6%
On February 28, Governor Gavin Newsom announced an update to the state masking guidance, moving from a mask requirement to recommendation for schools beginning at 11:59 pm on March 11. We responded initially by lifting our outdoor mask requirement.
I do believe in the importance of following national, state and local guidelines when it comes to COVID-19 safety. This is why we are aligning with guidelines from the California Department of Health Services (CDPH) and following its considerations.
Starting this Monday, March 14, we are strongly recommending masks, but no longer requiring them, at all WCCUSD middle schools, high schools, and central offices. Starting on April 15, after we return from spring break, masking will be strongly recommended but no longer required for all WCCUSD schools and central offices, including Pre-K, TK, elementary and K-8 schools.
At this time, we do not know the vaccination rate for students under 12. This is a more vulnerable population, and waiting till after spring break allows us time to monitor the case rates for this age group.
CDPH reminds us that masking is an important layer of protection against COVID-19, and we are strongly recommending all students and employees continue to wear a mask. Therefore, we will continue to provide high quality masks for students and staff.
Wearing a mask while indoors is part of our district’s larger COVID-19 mitigation strategy. We are continuing to ensure all classrooms have proper ventilation, that hand sanitizers are available and that immunocompromised individuals in our community receive necessary personal protective equipment. Our testing program remains among the most robust in the state – we are one of the only districts to provide weekly testing at all school sites. The group tracing approach for contact tracing recommended by Contra Costa County Health Services also continues. We will continue to partner with County Health Services to host vaccine clinics on our school sites.
We have asked our principals to make sure that each classroom has masks available for students and staff who choose to wear one. As an educational community, we strive to promote respect and civility; therefore, we ask all staff, community members and students to be respectful of each person’s individual decision about whether to wear a mask at school.
While there are many opinions about the wearing of masks across our very diverse district, we are all united around wanting the best for our students and staff. For us, that means a return to the focus on teaching and learning as much as possible.
Together, we have reached this moment because we have stayed vigilant, and we will remain so. We closely monitor the caseloads in our schools and in our county, and we are prepared to adapt our safety measures and protocols as transmission rates and guidelines change.
Thank you for everything you have done to keep the people of our community safe.
Dr. Kenneth Chris Hurst