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As the 2021-2022 academic year draws near, the Diocesan Office of Catholic Schools has announced that students, faculty and staff at the 26 Catholic schools in the Diocese will not be required to socially distance, but they will have to wear a mask.

“The Diocese remains committed to provide the safest environment for our students and faculty. We will follow the recommended public health guidance, and for this reason, students, faculty, and staff in every one of our schools are required to wear masks while indoors for the coming school year,” Superintendent Samuel Torres told the BYTE.

The announcement comes in a new set of guidelines that is less restrictive than the protocol used when schools reopened for in-person learning in spring 2021. At that time, social distancing was required, and schools installed plexiglass barriers between desks.

“Recent evidence indicates that in-person instruction can occur safely without minimum physical distancing requirements when other mitigation strategies (e.g., masking) are fully implemented (CDC; CDPH). Therefore, physical distancing and barriers will not be required moving forward,” according to the new guidelines.

Masks will be required for anyone over the age of 2 when indoors. If a person cannot wear a face covering due to a medical, pedagogical or developmental reason, a face shield with a drape can be used, but the wearer will also have to social distance from others.

The guidelines also state that COVID-19 screening should be done at home. Additionally, other protocol from previous guidelines that will continue to be implemented this fall include ventilation, handwashing, contact tracing and sanitizing.