No Mask, No School: San Diego Reinstates Mandate for Students

Parents think school boards are 'not putting students first,' says candidate

A masked elementary student / Getty Images
July 19, 2022

More than two years after San Diego first instituted a COVID-19 mask mandate, city schools are reinstating masks for students. Any child who doesn't want to wear a mask, board president Sharon Whitehurst-Payne told KUSI News, won't be allowed back in school.

"They can opt not to return to the regular school, but to go to the school … via Zoom," Whitehurst-Payne told the local news station, adding that students "really should wear the mask."

The board has already ordered the nearly 25,000 students in San Diego's summer school program to mask up. Whitehurst-Payne said students in the program uncomfortable with wearing masks should "just not return."

Remote learning during the pandemic has severely harmed children's education, a Harvard study found. K-12 students who attended school remotely lost 40 percent of their typical math curriculum learning. Almost half of all parents, including around 70 percent of Republicans and around 50 percent of independents, say masking hurts their children's education. Clinical trials, meanwhile, have shown that masks have little effect on the spread of COVID-19.

The announcement comes only a few months after San Diego schools in April lifted their original mask mandate. Whitehurst-Payne attributed the new mandate to "high" levels of COVID-19 transmission, according to the CDC. The district will revisit the policy in two weeks.

The San Diego Unified School District is not alone in ushering in a third year of COVID-19 protocols. Public schools in other Democratic-run cities such as Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago are forcing unvaccinated students to quarantine at home after COVID-19 exposures, even if they test negative. The CDC in May said "a third of the U.S. population" should wear masks indoors.

San Diego's mask mandate "exemplifies why many parents are stepping up to run," Carlsbad school board candidate Sharon McKeeman told ABC 10 News. "They feel that school boards have not listened to families' concerns during the pandemic and … [are] not putting students first."