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CHULA VISTA, Calif. – A town hall held Thursday for Chula Vista Elementary School District parents was geared toward answering questions about navigating the surging COVID-19 pandemic as students return to the classroom from winter break.

A critical question asked by district parents: Will schools stay open amid the latest uptick in COVID infections?

“We want to keep kids in school,” said Dr. Kelly Motadel, San Diego County’s child health officer. “We want to keep in-person learning going because we know that’s so important. Studies show schools are often safer environments than many other places in the community.”

Masks and what kind has also been a big topic recently, as guidance continues to update to adjust for more contagious variants like omicron. 

“N95 masks are the most protective, but there are similar masks that are much more comfortable that we are now encouraging the public to consider getting those are the KN95 or the KF94 mask,” Motadel said.

As for updated isolation times, students who are sick with COVID-19 should test on the fifth day. If that test negative, they could go back to school the next day as long as any symptoms have improved and they have no fever for 24 hours.

However, if that test on the fifth day still reads positive, students are asked to be out an additional five days and return to school on day 11. They do not need a test to return at that point.

While the Pfizer vaccine has been given emergency use authorization for ages 5 to 15, many are still wondering about a possible pending vaccine mandate for their student. 

“The FDA has given full approval for just 16 years and older,” Motadel said. “At this point, there is not a vaccine mandate in place. We anticipate full FDA approval will be coming for ages 12 and up sometime during the current learning term.”

Districts are also trying to ramp up testing availability. The Chula Vista Elementary District is looking to hire 200 people to work three additional testing sites in the near future.