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Hollister School District provides KN95 masks to staff

Absentee rates up after return from winter break

Courtesy of the Hollister School District 

The Hollister School District has distributed KN95 masks to all staff members as an additional safety measure in the wake of the surge in Covid-19 cases.

The district distributed close to 3,700 of the masks this week to staff members. That included a pack of five KN95 masks issued to each staff member who wanted them, said Ann Pennington, the student nutrition director who oversees the district’s warehouse and helped to organize the mask distribution. 

“When all of a sudden as a district we started talking about a better level of protection, we took inventory and realized we had enough of the masks to do that,” Pennington said. 

The district is responding to increased concerns about the surge in Covid-19 cases, with the omnicron variant being more contagious than prior variants and spurring the need for an extra level of protection beyond typical cloth masks. Local schools have experienced much higher rates of absences among students and staff since reopening after the winter break. 

The district announced availability of the KN95 masks to staff in a memo issued Wednesday. 

“As you may know, the District is actively working to ensure your safety and our students’ safety by working with the state options that are currently available to us during this Covid spike,” Superintendent Erika Sanchez wrote to staff members. “Your health, safety and morale are a priority to us.”

Pennington noted that staff members expressed a lot of gratitude for the masks’ availability. On the other hand, the KN95 masks are voluntary, and staff members are free to continue using three-ply cloth masks. 

Moving forward, the district has ordered 5,000 N95 masks that should arrive next week for staff members and is continuing to explore options for additional three-ply masks for staff and students. Pennington said the district is obtaining enough masks to hand out to students every day as needed for the rest of the school year.

School officials also are advising staff on how to care for the masks to get the most use out of them. Although Pennington said the prevailing thought is to use one mask per day, she underscored how they can be reused with proper care, such as packing them in a paper bag for 48 hours. Once they are soiled, the staff is advised to dispose of them in the trash. 

Sanchez in her memo mentioned another step taken to address teacher absences, noting how the state relaxed requirements for certificated substitutes. 

“We are working with those new requirements to acquire more substitutes for our classrooms,” she wrote.