Desert Sands Students Return to Fully In-Person Instruction Emotions Run High at School Board Meeting

City News Service & Ceci Partridge

Fully in-person instruction began Wednesday for the Desert Sands Unified School District, with students and faculty required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

The school district welcomed back its nearly 27,000 students to newly adjusted COVID-19 protocols. Superintendent Scott Bailey stated in a letter Aug. 9 that the district will be following guidelines set out by the California Department of Public Health.

Face masks are only required indoors, and are optional outdoors for all in-school settings. A COVID-19 safety document released by the school district states that mask exemption forms can be filed by people who cannot wear them due to medical reasons.

The DSUSD’s mask rule was a point of contention during the district’s Tuesday night board meeting, when about 80 parents showed up to offer public comment.

A majority of the crowd was against the district’s decision to require students to wear masks, according to the Desert Sun, which reported that the crowd booed one person who spoke in support of the mask policy. After approximately an hour of heated public comments, board members got up and left the meeting, returning after the crowd had vacated the building, according to the paper’s report.

Although masks will be required, social distancing will no longer be in a place according the COVID-19 safety document. The document explains that this move “is consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention K- 12 School Guidance.”

The document also states that staff and students will be required to “self-screen” daily for symptoms of COVID-19. Parents are to monitor their children for symptoms such as fever, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath and other symptoms before sending their children to school.

The document explains that if symptoms of COVID-19 are exhibited while at school, the student will be cared for in an “isolation space” and parents will be notified if the student will be sent home.

The district’s guidance states that classrooms will be cleaned once a day, and that staff can request additional cleaning supplies if desired.

Students and staff will also have access to on-site COVID-19 testing if they request it.

The DSUSD updates a COVID-19 dashboard daily. It lists current active cases and quarantines in the district. According to the dashboard, the district has had a total of 335 cases of COVID-19 since March 2020.

The DSUSD COVID-19 dashboard and COVID-19 safety plan can be found at www.dsusd.us/news/SuperSeconds/012821.

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