San Diego Unified School District Board President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne defended the district's decision to return to indoor mask mandates, suggesting that students uncomfortable with wearing a mask not return to school.
"They really should wear the mask," Whitehurst-Payne said in an interview with "Good Morning San Diego" Monday, adding that students who feel uncomfortable with the mask "at that point, just not return."
The comments come after the district announced that students enrolled in summer school will be required to wear masks indoors.
"If your student is participating in summer school or other summer enrichment program, please send them to school or their program with a mask," the district said in a letter to parents, according to KUSI News. "If they do not have one, masks will be provided. Students and staff will be required to wear their masks while indoors only."
The district has yet to say whether there will be a mask mandate for the fall semester, only saying that they would "continue to monitor the COVID-19 community level according to the CDC and County data and we will communicate if there are any changes in two weeks."
Whitehurst-Payne said that for parents concerned about the possibility of a mask mandate in the fall, there are "some options" such as "school that's online."
"They can opt not to return to the regular school but to go to the school where they don't have to go to school at all other than via Zoom," she said.
But recent research has shown the damage the pandemic shift away from in-person instruction has caused to student achievement, with one Harvard University study showing large gaps in outcomes between schools that spent less than three weeks in remote learning and those that relied on online schooling for much of the pandemic. Those gaps were especially pronounced in districts with low-income and minority families.
"Students in high-poverty schools that were remote for more than half of 2020-21 would be expected to see a 5% decline in average earnings over their career, given past relationships between test scores and earnings," Thomas Kane, a professor of education at Harvard and one of the authors of the study, said of the study's results. "That may not sound like much, but when calculating losses for all 50 million students in K-12 education in the U.S., it would amount to a $2 trillion decline in lifetime earnings."
Children are also at lower risk for severe complications from COVID-19, with one Harvard analysis finding that "many of them have no symptoms" and those that do fall ill "experience milder symptoms such as low-grade fever, fatigue and cough."
Other members of the SDUSD school board, district Superintendent Lamont A. Jackson and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.