VUSD to unmask students beginning March 14

Visalia Unified will no longer require students and staff to wear masks on its campuses following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement to lift the mandate statewide

VISALIA –  Tulare County’s largest school district will soon lift its requirement for students and staff to wear masks on campus, following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that mask mandates in schools will end March 12. 

Gov. Newsom and state officials made the announcement on Feb. 28. In his remarks, Newsom also announced an end to the indoor mask mandate.  As of March 1, masks are no longer required for unvaccinated individuals, but will be strongly recommended for all individuals in most indoor settings. Masks will still be required for everyone in high transmission settings like public transit, emergency shelters, health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities. As always, local jurisdictions may have additional requirements beyond the state guidance.

“California continues to adjust our policies based on the latest data and science, applying what we’ve learned over the past two years to guide our response to the pandemic,” Newsom said in a released statement. “Masks are an effective tool to minimize spread of the virus and future variants, especially when transmission rates are high. We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take measures rooted in science to keep California moving forward.”

In response to the order, Visalia Unified School District sent an email to parents announcing the mask mandate for students will expire on March 11. 

“After March 11, 2022, VUSD students and staff will no longer be required to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status” said Kim Batty, public information officer for VUSD. “Wearing a mask is optional, but strongly recommended.”

The district is hosting a Question & Answer forum for parents over Zoom beginning at 5:30 p.m. on March 7. According to Batty, over 100 questions have already been submitted, varying from whether students can continue to wear masks to why the mask mandate is expiring despite CDC data that places Tulare County at a high community level of COVID-19. The forum can be viewed at .

“VUSD will follow any mandates set forth by Tulare County Health and Human Services and the California Department of Public Health,” Batty said. 

Batty said the district will continue to provide safety measures such as air purification and filtration systems, daily cleaning and sanitation processes and Covid-19 testing. Masks will still be provided to students and staff upon request. 

Unmask Tulare County, a grass roots group which has been fighting the school mask mandate for the last year, is unwavering in their stance, even after the Governor’s announcement. 

“While some are seemingly unaffected by continual mask wearing, many have been impacted deeply,” said Jimmy Malloy, the group’s president. “Just yesterday, we talked to a mother who’s 8-year-old daughter had a complete panic attack before school because she thought she’d lost her mask. No announcement by the Governor is going to fix that.”

Unmask Tulare County founder, Jimmy Malloy, speaks to a crowd at a town hall in Exeter on Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by Ben Irwin.

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