SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — School superintendents from six Bay Area counties on Friday released a joint statement in support of a return to full, in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.

The unified statement covered county superintendents from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, in addition to the city of Berkeley.

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“In accordance with the July 12, 2021 California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) K-12 school guidance, the superintendents are eager for students and staff to begin their school year with in-person instruction that maximizes as much in-person instructional time as possible,” the statement read.

Most of the counties’ school districts are beginning by mid-August if not earlier. Currently, all persons 12 years of age and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the guidance from the CDPH, “In California, the surest path to safe and full in-person instruction at the outset of the school year, as well as minimizing missed school days in an ongoing basis, is a strong emphasis on the following: vaccination for all eligible individuals to get COVID-19 rates down throughout the community; universal masking in schools, which enables no minimum physical distancing, allowing all students access to full in-person learning, and more targeted quarantine practices, keeping students in school; and access to a robust COVID-19 testing program as an available additional safety layer.”

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In collaboration with their respective public health officers, the county superintendents are strongly recommending that all residents who are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccination to be vaccinated as soon as possible. School districts are educating the community about the requirement of universal masking while indoors on school campus.

“We are so excited to welcome students back to school,” SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said in the release. “We continue to work closely with health experts to prepare for a safe school reopening. Last spring when we reopened to in-person learning for nearly half our students, we did not have any confirmed cases of school transmission in SFUSD. Schools across the world have shown similar evidence that in-person learning can happen safely.”

The American Association of Pediatricians (AAP) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) also recently announced their recommendations and guidance for schools. Both recommend universal masking indoors on school campuses. According to the AAP guidance, “Schools must continue to take a multi-pronged, layered approach to protect students, teachers, and staff (ie, vaccination, universal mask use, ventilation, testing, quarantining, and cleaning and disinfecting). Combining these layers of protection will make in-person learning safe and possible.”

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It has also been noted by both medical organizations that universal masking while on school campuses also has the added health benefit of minimizing the spread of other respiratory diseases and infections.