Photo by Jeremy Thompson

Students’ faces will remain covered at College of the Canyons for the time being, after the Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to maintain the college’s indoor masking requirements.

In a 5-1 vote, the Trustees passed a motion calling for the continuance of wearing masks indoors through June 2, 2022 — the end of the current spring term.

The college’s face-covering, testing and vaccination regime was put in place last August, as in-person instruction resumed on COC campuses for Fall 2021. The system was revised in December, to mirror the Los Angeles County Department of Health’s mandates.

“That resolution contained a clause that said if the county changes its guidelines, the college would engage in dialog with employees and students about changing campus policies,” said COC spokesperson Eric Harnish.

That dialog process was triggered when LA County announced that indoor masking would shift from “required” to “highly recommended,” effective March 11.

College officials polled students, faculty, and staff presenting four options with respect to face coverings; continuing the current rules, keeping masks in classrooms but not some other indoor spaces, allowing individual faculty members to decide on a class-by-class basis, and aligning with the county to take the recommended-not-required approach.

According to a survey conducted by College of the Canyons, 56% of students and 53% of staff preferred to align with Los Angeles County’s position of recommending — but not requiring — masks. GRAPHIC COURTESY: College of the Canyons Public Information Office

A majority of both students and staff expressed support for alignment with the county and making masks optional, though highly recommended.

Only 20% of students and 27% of faculty supported staying the course under current rules.

After consulting with school constituencies, COC administrators submitted a motion to the board that would extend masking through the end of the current term, despite the survey results.

The motion was amended to add public performances to an existing exemption for athletic practices and competitions, after advocacy by students from the Visual and Performing Arts department.

Kayley Stallings (left) and Christina Jardine in rehearsals for the theater department’s upcoming production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Student performances will be unmasked under an amended resolution passed by the COC Board of Trustees. PHOTO: Jeremy D. Thompson

Upcoming concerts from the music department, performances by dance students and the upcoming production of Into the Woods will all be allowed to perform unmasked.

At the urging of District Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook, speech and debate presentations were also added to the expanded sports exemption.

The performance amendment was passed unanimously, after several impassioned public comments by members of the Into the Woods cast.

“Performing while masked makes it difficult for wind players, muffles singing voices, and eliminates the most effective tool actors have at their disposal — their faces,” wrote theater student Christina Jardine in a letter sent to trustees that also noted that upcoming performances in the Performing Arts Center from Jay Leno and others would be un-masked.

“COC students should have the same opportunity to demonstrate the craft we have learned in our classrooms from our exceptional faculty.”

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