FRESNO COUNTY, California. (KGPE) – Clovis Unified is changing its course when it comes to student mask exemptions.

On July 29th, district trustees voted to let parents exempt their children from wearing masks for medical or mental health reasons.

The district says 4 to 5% of parents turned in an exemption form last week prior to this change, that’s roughly 2,000 students.

But now, they’re going to have to go back and get a doctor’s note to verify their condition.

“I think many of us are feeling anxious about what exactly it will look like when we get students next week,” said Kirstin Heimerdinger, a spokesperson for the Association of Clovis Educators.

Aligning with new state health department guidance, Clovis unified will require a doctor to verify if a student is exempt from wearing a mask due to medical or mental conditions, or disability.

Previously, the board allowed parents to self attest.

“Every parent that had filed an exemption has received communication from the district letting them know that now there is another form,” explained Clovis Unified spokesperson Kelly Avants.

Exempted students will still need to wear a non-restrictive alternative, like a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge.

For parents scrambling to get a doctor’s note, the district says until then, independent study is available.

“If a parent doesn’t want to send their child to school with a mask, nor do they have a condition that would require an exemption, then they would have alternative through our independent study program, online school or other program, that does now require them to be in K-12 school setting,” said Avants.

Marie Garcia says her two children at Cole Elementary will be wearing a mask as required.

“I want my kids to be able to go to school,” said Garcia.

But as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, she worries about their safety.

“I understand everyone has an opinion about masks but when you go to a school site, that should be checked at the door and the number one priority should be the safety of all students,” Garcia said.

The district also responded to criticism it faced after posting photos from a new teacher breakfast with nearly 200 adults inside, few wearing masks.

“There were people present in masks, there were people vaccinated not wearing them, that was an event held within California health guidelines,” said Avants.

The district says it will continue to follow state guidelines and update parents as it changes.