I've been working on a rather long post for several weeks, as I've had time, on my experience as a semi-regular classroom teacher during the final months of the 2020-21 school year. The completion of that post has been hampered by the sale of our home and preparations to move. But this bit of news from last week prompts an immediate response.
On Friday, the California Department of Public Health released updated guidance for the coming school year. Despite their appeals to "science," California's bureaucrats are far more interested in not hurting kids' feelings.
"We applaud the CDC's commitment to ensuring that schools are fully, safely opened for in-person instruction. Given California's science-based approach and the fact that the state's school facilities can't accommodate physical distancing, we will align with the CDC by implementing multiple layers of mitigation strategies, including continued masking and robust testing capacity," said California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. "Masking is a simple and effective intervention that does not interfere with offering full in-person instruction. At the outset of the new year, students should be able to walk into school without worrying about whether they will feel different or singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated – treating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment." [emphasis added]
As with adults, this removes one of the primary motivators for getting the vaccine—a return to normalcy. This insane focus on trying to make kids don't "feel different or singled out" in the name of equity is what forced many schools to forbid requiring students in middle school and above from having to turn on the webcams on their computers for distance learning. That decision meant that a majority of kids weren't engaged in the learning process as they would login to class, then go back to sleep, play video games, or do something unrelated to actual schoolwork.
Now, all students—and likely teachers as well—will have to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, or actual risk to spread COVID. It's been show time and time again that schools are not a vector for transmission of COVID. Children are unlikely to get the disease, and those that do are extremely unlikely to suffer any serious health consequences. The reason we ostensibly closed down schools last fall and into the winter was of the danger to adults, not children.
For the California DPH, feelings are more important than science. Our public health bureaucracy continues to prioritize control and "equity" over actually solving a public health emergency. They also continue to undermine efforts to convert vaccine skeptics with every decision that puts restrictions of any sort on the already vaccinated population.
Masks will continue to be the new normal in California schools, probably for the entirety of the next school year (and probably beyond if my inner skeptic is correct). That's a decision not based on science, but on feelings and perceptions.