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SAN DIEGO — Leaders of San Diego County’s largest school district have announced a change in their mask requirements ahead of the start of the school year.

Students and staff in the San Diego Unified School District were already required to wear masks indoors while on campus. The district said Thursday that they’re returning to a policy introduced in the spring that requires students to wear masks outdoors, too, aside from when they’re eating.

SDUSD spokesperson Mike Murad said the district strengthened its guidelines in light of the continued presence of COVID-19 in the San Diego community. Students will be able to take multiple mask breaks throughout the day.

Masks may be removed outdoors in certain situations and with certain distancing recommendations during physical education, athletics and performing arts programs. The district will continue to update policies and procedures as new information becomes available, Murad said.

The SDUSD policy change came the day after county public health officials recommended everyone wear facial coverings in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status. It is roughly the same policy officials have had for about a month, coming after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending mask-wearing indoors for all in areas experiencing “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 transmission.

The indoor mask mandate in schools has rankled some local parents, leading to an ongoing series of rallies — and a recent San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting that got heated — in a bid for so-called “mask choice” in the classroom.

“We’re hearing from kids that the ‘plus’ of this school year compared to last school year is being able to have those masks off outdoors,” Sharon McKeeman, the founder of the Let Them Breathe advocacy group, told FOX 5 Thursday. “Even San Diego Unified says kids will be allowed to have mask breaks outdoors, so they are agreeing, ‘Yes these kids need to be able to breathe fresh air.’”

San Diego Unified Board President Richard Barrera said he’s hearing from parents who are happy about the return to stricter mask guidelines.

“We’ve heard overwhelmingly from parents that they are relieved to hear that we’re going back to the masking all day policy,” Barrera told FOX 5. “Not only is this the safest thing to do in terms of preventing against the spread of the virus on our campuses, but it’s actually the best strategy to keep our kids in school.”