LOS ANGELES — This Monday marks a moment Houman Hemmati has been waiting for – the end of mandatory indoor masking at Santa Monica Malibu Unified Schools.
What You Need To Know
- On March 14, Santa Monica Malibu Schools and some other districts in LA County will move from requiring masks indoors, to strongly recommending them
- This means masking is up to individual discretion. However, LAUSD has not yet dropped the indoor masking mandate
- LA County has transitioned to strongly recommending masks in some indoor settings like restaurants, retail stores and theaters
- Ryan Bourke, The Principal of Will Rogers Learning Community a SMMUSD school, said the change to mandates is a step in the right direction
Hemmati has a daughter in the district and has been a vocal opponent of mandatory masking.
“As both a parent and a physician, I’m ecstatic that Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District is going to be unmasking children on Monday. Masks will now be made optional in accordance with county and CDC guidance, which is thrilling for a lot of parents and a lot of students," he said.
Hemmati said removing masks in doors will allow his daughter, who is in kindergarten, and other students to catch up on missed academic and social experiences.
“The fact that they are now making it optional is allowing kids and parents to make the decision for themselves and allowing kids to finally see their classmates faces, to finally see their teachers' faces. It’s allowing them when they’re learning how to speak and how to read and write to actually see people vocalize words and pronounce things correctly,” he said.
On March 14, Santa Monica Malibu Schools and some other districts in LA County will move from requiring masks indoors, to strongly recommending them. This means masking is up to individual discretion. However, LAUSD has not yet dropped the indoor masking mandate.
LA County has transitioned to strongly recommending masks in some indoor settings like restaurants, retail stores and theaters.
Ryan Bourke, The Principal of Will Rogers Learning Community, a SMMUSD school, said the change to mandates is a step in the right direction.
“It certainly is powerful as a school community for teachers, administrators and parents are able to see faces and see the smiles and joy that is represented on young students' faces,” he said.
However, Bourke understands some students may feel safer keeping masks on because of underlying health conditions they or family members may have — or simply because it’s what they’re used to.
“Like any decision that reflects personal preference, there will be a variety of responses to that, so we will have students that will wear masks, we will have students that don’t wear masks. We have been very clear, under no circumstances should students be teased because they choose to wear their mask or not to wear their masks,” he said.
SMMUSD will also continue testing students regularly and maintain other safety protocols.
“We are not being cavalier, yes we are taking steps in the right direction, but we are still using these measures that are in place,” Bourke said.
But some parents are concerned about the changes to mandating masks. James Lim is a SMMUSD parent and said he thinks it’s too soon.
“Outdoors I think it’s okay…we don’t know if there might be another wave of coronavirus so, I don’t think we are fully clear and we don’t feel comfortable having it optional at the moment indoors,” he said.
So, Lim’s daughter will continue to wear her mask indoors. But Houman Hemmati’s daughter, Parisa, is thrilled to take hers off. Hemmati picked her up from school on Friday afternoon.
“Well, I think it’s really good because I get to see my friend’s beautiful faces!” she said.
Hemmati was also looking forward to her going back to school without masks on Monday.
“That type of communication, non-verbally, is going to translate to translate to better learning better social bonds, better trust between hear and the teacher. All that’s going to improve not only her life but the lives of all the students in her class,” he said.