LAUSD to keep outdoor mask mandate in place this week, but changes may be ahead

LAUSD Supt. Alberto M. Carvalho greets parents
Los Angeles Unified Supt. Alberto M. Carvalho said the district will keep its outdoor mask mandate through the end of the week.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Unified School District will keep its outdoor mask mandate in place for the rest of the week, despite county health guidance that allowed K-12 school systems to lift the requirement on Wednesday, said new Supt. Alberto Carvalho.

The district is seeking expert advice and will prioritize safety decisions based on science, Carvalho said during a visit Wednesday morning to Fremont High School in South Los Angeles. School districts can opt to enforce stricter mask rules beyond county policies.

“We rely on our medical experts,” Carvalho said in his first news conference since becoming L.A.’s schools chief on Monday. “We are in a process of having additional conversations with medical entities that have advised this school system throughout the process. I am very confident that we will be in a position of making an announcement going into next week regarding the status of mask wearing on outdoor settings.”


The superintendent added that it was premature to discuss the parameters for lifting the indoor mask mandate, which is still required by the county.

Carvalho announced the district’s position in an update posted on Twitter Tuesday night, saying that the district “will keep the current guidelines in place for the remainder of this week and will announce changes to our outdoor masking guidance as early as next week.”

“Los Angeles Unified has remained aligned with our health partners throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote in the post.

Carvalho said he was encouraged by the rapidly declining rate of coronavirus infections being recorded by the district’s weekly testing program, in which all students and staff are required to participate. That trend would allow for consideration of what the next steps should be, he said.

While at the school Carvalho also provided new details of the “100 Day Plan” he said he is putting together.

This will include a review of pandemic recovery efforts already underway as well as reviewing short- and long-term spending. He noted that the pandemic relief dollars that flooded the nation’s second-largest school system is only temporary “and we need to once again have a vigorous discussion about the individual needs of students, particularly the most fragile students and align the resources to their individual needs.”


The first 100 days also will include a listening tour — an idea that echoes the approach of the late Supt. Michelle King, who took office in January 2016 but had to step away from the job less than two years later because of illness.

Carvalho said he also envisioned a greater voice for parents — a goal he’d also mentioned when he was hired in December.

“I’m very interested in simplifying the processes by which parents access schools and the information at those schools,” he said. “I want to lay the groundwork for a Parent Academy to empower parents with the ability to navigate our school system.”

Later, during a visit to the Maywood Center for Enriched Studies, he said he wanted parents to become “dangerous in a good way.”

He also talked about building ties with the philanthropic, business and civic leadership — initiatives also promoted by former Supt. Austin Beutner, who stepped down in July. Carvalho said he wants to deepen such partnerships on a permanent basis with an academic focus.

The new leader also emphasized that he would use his first 100 days to study student-centered data.


“I’m looking specifically at attendance patterns, proficiency realities specific to language arts, reading, mathematics, as well as the temperature on the social and emotional well-being — not districtwide, but looking strategically at every single ZIP code, every single area. I’m very interested in understanding the disaggregated performance of students in this community.”

“I want to also obviously revisit technology decisions through the lens of equity and connectivity for all students,” he added.

But the big-picture planning was, for the moment at least, overshadowed by the topic of masks. While the state requires all K-12 students and staff to wear masks indoors, L.A. County also had — until recently — required wearing them outdoors on campus, as well.

The state will reassess conditions at the end of the month before making a decision on school masking rules.

Feb. 14, 2022

That changed early Wednesday morning, when the county relaxed that requirement outdoors at K-12 schools, including transitional kindergarten, and child-care facilities.

Additionally, masks are no longer required in exterior areas of “mega” events, such as those at the Hollywood Bowl, Dodger Stadium, SoFi Stadium and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Students at Fremont High said they are ready to ditch masks — at least outdoors, and especially for sports.


“I feel like for sports, especially outdoors, it gets really hot,” said senior America Duran. “And then indoors, it’s really stuffy.”

But removing masks, especially indoors, would be an adjustment: “Because although we were in class without masks previously, it feels like something new again, to just kind of like get used to.” And she would have some health concerns about unmasking indoors.

Senior Natalie Garcia is ready for the change.

“It would definitely be a relief,” she said, adding the masks are uncomfortable. “It’ll be really good if we could get it off of our faces the whole day. Most of the kids here are fully vaccinated, so they should be protected.”

Joan Sanchez has mixed feelings.

“It will be a liberating thing to not wear masks,” he said. “But at the same time, I would be like a bit anxious.”

The county loosened its rules after meeting its self-set threshold of having fewer than 2,500 coronavirus-positive individuals hospitalized for seven straight days. As of Tuesday, 1,835 such patients were hospitalized countywide — a decrease of 29% from a week ago.

But while California on Wednesday lifted a statewide mandate that residents wear masks in indoor public places, L.A. County is maintaining that requirement for the time being.


People can go without face coverings outdoors, including at K-12 schools, childcare facilities and in exterior areas of ‘mega’ events.

Feb. 16, 2022

County health officials say they will lift that rule once the region records seven consecutive days at a “moderate” level of coronavirus transmission, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though L.A. County remains well above that level at the moment, transmission is plunging — and Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer estimated this week that the county could hit its target by the middle of March.