With no statement from the district, what does this mean for Peralta?

Photo by Ken Lester/The Citizen

March 16, 2022

By Shiloh Johnston, Staff Writer

Governor Gavin Newsom announced February 28 that indoor mask mandates for schools would be lifted as of March 11. Local jurisdictions have been instructed to continue implementing additional requirements to match local circumstances, raising questions of whether Peralta will continue to implement its local mandates or adhere to statewide changes in policy.

The Peralta Community College District (PCCD) currently has an Administrative Protocol in place that addresses both vaccination and masking requirements for employees, students, and visitors. 

The document states that “individuals must at all times, while on PCCD controlled property, wear face masks that fully cover both mouths and noses in accordance with mandates by the State of California and/or Alameda County and the District’s COVID-19 Prevention Plan.”

The Alameda County Public Health Department recently issued a press release stating that the county will align with California’s recent changes to indoor mask guidelines. 

Photo by Ken Lester/The Citizen

While Newsom’s announcement included all levels of education, the guidelines for Alameda County and the California Department of Public Health specifically address K-12 schools. The differences in these updated policies call into question whether they will apply to California community colleges or higher education as a whole.

The Citizen asked Paul Feist, Vice Chancellor of Communications and Marketing at California Community Colleges, for clarification on the scope of these new guidelines and whether the State Chancellor’s Office will advise community colleges to adhere to them. 

“We don’t have the authority to require districts to do masking or not do masking, to do vaccinations or not do vaccinations,” Feist said. 

Feist clarified that the Chancellor’s office relies on the California Department of Public Health for their expertise and guidance in the area of COVID-related protocols.

“So it’s really the state guidance, local guidance, and even college direction that’s either made by the college leadership or the Board of Trustees. There’s really no one-size-fits-all, uniform guidance or regulation coming from the State Chancellor’s Office regarding masks,” Feist explained.

On the question of whether the new state guidelines apply to community colleges, Feist said “they can, yeah, but as I said, it’s up to the local districts to develop their own guidelines.”

Many colleges throughout the state are divided on whether or not to follow these updated guidelines. In Santa Clara County, DeAnza and Foothill Colleges will lift restrictions on March 25 while Santa Clara University has decided to align with the new state indoor masking policy starting on March 18. San Jose State, Contra Costa Community College District, and San Francisco County will continue to require masks indoors, at least through the end of the spring semester.

Higher education institutions are also divided on indoor masking within Alameda County. Both UC Berkeley and Cal State East Bay have already lifted restrictions while Ohlone College and Chabot Las Positas Community College District will still keep restrictions in effect.

PCCD had not made any announcement regarding changes to the district’s masking guidelines at the time of this publication.

Photo by Ken Lester/The Citizen

Jennifer Shanoski, Peralta Federation of Teachers president, told the Citizen that the union had not heard anything about any changes. 

“The recommendation from the governor is still to strongly recommend mask wearing. So we support indoor mask wearing to ensure that our faculty and students remain safe and that we don’t get another huge outbreak,” Shanoski said.

Richard Thoele, President of the Peralta Colleges chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021, told the Citizen that he had also not been informed of any potential changes to the district’s mask policies.

“The District has not reached out to SEIU 1021 classified professional union, regarding a change in mask policy in any formal way,” Thoele said.

Thoele also indicated that any changes to indoor mask policies that would affect classified professionals would require collaboration with the union.

“Per the site agreement between SEIU and the district, any and all changes to the COVID Prevention Plan have to be negotiated,” Thoele explained. 

The Citizen reached out to Mark Johnson, PCCD’s Executive Director for Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations, and asked whether there would be any changes to district policy and if and when the district would release a statement to address the updated state guidelines.

“Peralta currently requires the wearing of masks indoors on Peralta property, unless one is alone in a personal office space. I’m not aware of any imminent change in the policy,” Johnson said.

Johnson did not comment on whether or not the district was planning to release a statement to inform the Peralta community of any changes to the pre-March 11 indoor mask policy. 

With no statement from the district, it is unclear whether students, classified professionals, administrators, and faculty will assume that the state’s updated guidelines apply to them or if they will assume the district’s earlier mask guidelines are still in effect.