LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles Unified School District students and staff will be able to remove their masks indoors starting Wednesday now that the district has reached agreements with its labor unions to lift the face-covering requirement.
``I strongly support ending the indoor mask requirement and am committed to continuing to uphold our science-based approach to COVID-19 safety and protocols,'' Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said in a statement. ``I want to personally thank our students, employees and families for their support and patience. We know some in our school communities and offices will continue to wear masks, while others may not. Please consider your situation and do what is best for you or your child. Now that this important issue is behind us, it is time to focus on each student's full academic potential.''
The state of California and Los Angeles County both lifted the mask- wearing mandate for school campuses on March 12. But the LAUSD kept its requirement in place due to a clause in its labor contract with the teachers' union, United Teachers Los Angeles, which required mask-wearing through the end of the semester.
With the lifting of the state and county requirements, however, the district began labor talks with UTLA and other labor groups, announcing Friday that it had reached an agreement to lift the requirement. Masks will now only be ``strongly recommended'' indoors.
The outdoor mask-wearing requirement was lifted previously.
According to LAUSD, the new agreement still needs to be formally ratified by union members, but that process has already begun, and the mandate is expected to be lifted by Wednesday.
The pact with UTLA, while allowing for a lifting of the mask mandate, calls for continued weekly COVID testing of all students and staff through the end of the school year. The district also must continue to offer KN95 or N95 masks to any employee who requests them. The district also must provide take- home COVID tests to all students and staff ``for baseline testing prior to the beginning of the 2022 Spring Break.''
The agreement will be in place until June 30. Additional talks will be held later to determine protocols for the next school year.