Alameda students must wear masks indoors and outdoors, get tested for COVID

At a special board meeting Thursday night, the Alameda Unified School District approved a plan to step-up COVID-19 testing for all unvaccinated students.

The program, which other districts have referred to as COVID "surveillance testing", would would happen on campuses, district-wide, at least twice a month.

"It's not to catch every case. It's to make sure we're containing and preventing spread," said AUSD Superintendent, Pasquale Scuderi. "That's going to be the larger hurdle we have to climb, weekly, to keep these classes open."

The Alameda Unified School District keeps a dashboard of positive COVID cases among students and staff in the district. Administrators said the handful of cases that have happened at several schools so far, did not originate in schools but came from the wider community.

Because kids younger than age 12 aren't eligible for the COVID vaccine yet, the vast majority of elementary students in the district will be included in the twice-monthly testing program.

Many of the parents KTVU spoke with outside Ruby Bridges Elementary school applaud the increased testing.

"It's to reduce the spread. we want our kids back here socializing, being with the teachers," said Allison Sirumbal, a parent of a Kindergartener at Ruby Bridges Elementary. She said that shortly after the school year began, there was a student who tested positive in her son's grade at the school. Her son did not get sick and has already been tested twice at school.

Sirumbal added that she's happy with any measures the district takes to keep kids healthy and in class.

Alameda Unified Superintendent Scuderi said there is an incredible amount of work that goes into providing testing and contact tracing for the district's more than 9,000 students. He said AUSD is in the process of hiring seven additional staff members and a director-level administrative position to "essentially create and entire testing infrastructure" at the district. He said the AUSD board approved the use of state and federal COVID relief funds last night to fund the extra positions.

"I have people on my business and administrative staff, spending 20 to 30 hours of extra time, just to do this work this extra added layer of safety we have to have at this time," Scuderi said. "It's well worth it - but it's a lot of work."

The Alameda School Board also voted at a special meeting Thursday night to require everyone on campuses - students and teachers - to wear masks both indoors and while outside.

Students can take socially-distanced "mask breaks" during snack and lunch time.

Under California Department of Public Health guidelines, mask-wearing is already required indoors at all schools in California. However, many Bay Area school districts, including Oakland Unified and Piedmont Unified have gone beyond the state requirement and implemented policies of mask-wearing for kids outdoors.

Five-year-old Leonardo Castillo said he doesn't mind wearing his mask outside while at school and explained why: " Coronavirus is really bad. I don't want to have a cold or fever or headache!"