There are 6,900 students within the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District who are now able to decide whether they want to wear a mask at school.
This comes after the board of trustees decided Tuesday night on mask choice for the students in a 5 to 2 vote. Paso Robles is the first school district within San Luis Obispo County to make this move.
“It’s almost like not normal and it's kind of sad that it's not normal,” said Paso Robles High School student, Emma Roby.
For the first time since the pandemic started, Paso Robles Joint Unified School District students are able to go mask-less inside.
“I'd say in every class, there are probably just like two or three kids just wearing a mask but it's totally their choice,” Roby said.
This comes one week after the indoor mask mandate was dropped in San Luis Obispo County for those who are vaccinated. The change excluded schools but following student protests and uproar among parents, Paso Unified students got the okay from the school board on Tuesday evening that they could drop their masks too.
“I was absolutely overjoyed,” said parent, Vanessa Harris. “I fell to my knees.”
“I think it was a long time coming,” said parent, Jeff Roby. “It's like, ‘Why can I not wear a mask in here but then, when I go to school, I have to put a mask on?’ It's like what's the difference?”
“Hearing that so many people stood up for the kids, it was empowering,” said parent, Marissa Morro. “It was emotional and seeing the smile and the light come back in my kids’ eyes, it was a relief. We can breathe. They can breathe.”
But some parents are in opposition to getting rid of masks inside because of the teachers.
“At the end of the day, the mask to me represents: I care about others and I care that I'm not spreading my germs because I don’t know what I have,” said parent, Camille Katz.
Some say a lot of things came to light in the meeting.
“I just loved that they were able to express their frustration and bring out a lot of the things that turned out not to be exactly true about the insurance dropping the district if they lifted the mask mandate,” said Cecilia Hanks, Retired Paso School District employee.
“What they did say is that it's a possibility that a claim might not be covered but that's the case with any claim that they get,” explained parent and chair of Moms for Liberty, Jennifer Grinager.
We reached out to the San Luis Obispo County Superintendent of Schools, James Brescia and were told:
“I confirmed this morning at 10:00 a.m. with our legal services and the insurance carrier that any agency intentionally acting against legal mandates and insurance requirements risks both liabilities coverage and sanctions from Cal/OSHA. Additionally, the trustees also risk liability coverage as elected officials in potential litigation specific to the resolution.”
Some are hopeful that Paso Unified set a precedent for the other local school districts.
“I would like to let parents know that they still hold a lot of power and they need to appeal to their board of trustees,” Harris said.
The California Department of Public Health is set to announce new guidance this upcoming Monday on masking in schools.
Staff must still wear masks under the resolution.
Meanwhile, San Luis Coastal Unified School District is set to hold a special meeting on Thursday at 3 p.m. on mask choice for students followed by Templeton at 6:15 p.m. Atascadero and Lucia Mar Unified School Districts will hold meetings on March 1.