Parents tell school board: Make masks a choice


The first in-person school board meeting since March 2020. The room was packed with residents wanting to comment on the state’s class mask mandate.

Parents and community members filled with passionate intensity on Tuesday night told the Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District board in no uncertain terms: make masking for children optional in the fall.

Unfortunately, Sacramento disagrees.

The first face-to-face board meeting in about a year and a half began with the pledge of allegiance with the superintendent. Ron McCowan finds some solace in this timeless ritual. He commented that it was nice to hear the whole group say the pledge together. “It was something special. I appreciate you being here tonight, ”he said.

He explained the district’s mask policy for employees and visitors, which is that everyone wear masks whether or not they are vaccinated. This is to avoid the burden of keeping everyone’s medical information on file. This, of course, is different from the state mask warrant, which has been discussed below.

“End the mandate of the mask”

Speaker after speaker told grim-faced administrators of variations on “Time to end the mask’s tenure,” “Let everyone do what they need to do for their kids,” “The kids don’t. need to wear masks “,” You must fight like hell for our students “,” We demand the choice of mask “,” My daughter will not come back if there is a mask warrant “” This should be parents’ choice. “ They were lively. Some were loud. It was democracy in action.

A total of 16 community members took the floor. A sample of the comments:

Sarah Bond, who has a Grade 8 and Grade 2 student at the school, said: “Every institution, business and person, makes decisions based on their risk appetite. We have to respect this, but we are incredibly knowledgeable about COVID. All we did for a year and a half was educate each other on all the considerations. We are a very informed population. It’s time for everyone to use their risk appetite, make choices, and let others respect those choices.

Hannah Levine said, “Our kids have to get back to normal. The masks make it difficult for me child catching his breath. They are deprived of facial expressions. Noting that children drop their masks several times a day, she said, “You support a child putting a Petri dish on their face. It’s time to end the school mask mandate or at the very least make it optional. “

Taylor Thomas, a 37-year-old resident who has a third grader asked, “Why do we have to go back? People have been without masks for months. My kids went to vacation Bible school for weeks without masks. If you are a teacher and you are vaccinated, why are you worried about those who are not? If the vaccines work, you have nothing to worry about the unvaccinated. Children do not need to wear masks. If you don’t start lifting the warrants, people are homeschooling more and going to private schools and you will lose half of the children who go here.

Bill Dunckel, parent of four and trainer, was choked with emotion, declaring: “We are Americans, we have a choice. You can dive with sharks and ride a motorbike, so why can’t we choose a mask or not? Some people want to minimize their chances. Awesome! Whether they choose to wear their mask or not. Ultimately, it is their choice. The death rate is “going down” in San Diego, he said. “You can’t even see the 0-9 age group having a death.” He added: “I have been teaching for a long time and have not seen such a drop in the behavior of my students. If you think this is politics, you are crazy. Mr. McCowan, you must fight like hell for our students!

Joy Olson called for optional masking. “For the emotional health of the students, make the masks optional,” she said. “Right now my second grade son looks like he’s in kindergarten. I am very concerned about the impacts on mental health. Our students need to see human faces to learn more about human emotions; so that they can learn social skills. Make masks optional. The masks will lead to a drop in registrations as was the case last year, ”she said.

One speaker, Ray Pallone, 82, said he was kicked out of several establishments for refusing to hide. “We ask this group for permission to be American. Is this a joke? ” he ordered. “We must be sheep or goats. We manage all the risks. We are first of all Americans. We are free and we can do whatever we want. We are all sheep, I am a goat.

Only one speaker, Jim Nielsen, a retired coach, did not demand that the board challenge the state. Nielsen asked the public to relax the board a bit, “The school board is an impossible job,” he said. “Do you want to look at the job they have and see them trying to do what’s best for you?” These guys are trying to help as many people as possible. They are trying to represent you.

School board president Craig Adams (left) and superintendent. Ron McCowan at Tuesday night’s special board meeting, the first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic.

It’s not a choice

Speakers seemed to believe the board had a choice. However, McCowan made it clear that the district had no options. “I’m not here to discuss the rules, I’m just here to state what they are,” said McCowan, explaining that Sacramento’s last term leaves no room for maneuver. Schools should require students to wear masks in class.

The superintendent explained that the mandate changes come from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) through the California Dept. of Public Health. The CDC’s recommendation was that vaccinated people did not need to wear masks at school sites, but unvaccinated people should. The CRPD can make things more restrictive but no less than the CDC – it has chosen to be more restrictive. Governor Gavin Newsom then sent mixed signals on the matter before finally clarifying that there was a mask warrant.

Noting that the rules could change at any time, McCowan said, “We are mandated to have a mask warrant. It is not a choice. Wearing a mask will NOT be compulsory outside. . . School boards do not have the power not to impose masks. We have a responsibility to uphold the mandate.

When administrator Julie Stroh spoke about information that the Alpine School District was challenging the mask’s mandate and asked, “Why can’t we do this? McCowan replied, “Alpine hasn’t had a board meeting to decide whether they’re going to challenge the order.” He said the Alpine superintendent said their district would have voluntary masking when it seemed like an option, before the CRPD sought the mask’s warrant.

He added: “If you have a health warrant and you don’t follow that, your insurance won’t cover you and they will come and close your doors.

Stroh commented, “We are all very, very concerned about the education of our students and the freedom of our parents. How can we have this freedom of choice for the safety of our students? To be free with the mask problem. Not just the physical, but also the social and emotional costs of the masks. “

Chairman of the Board Craig Adams added, “We all care about this situation. “

McCowan said if parents are serious about making changes, they need to focus on state government. “The real action will come from the parents, and it has to go beyond the school board, but it has to come to the higher levels,” he said.

But he added: “It might be different tomorrow morning.”

In other matters, the board announced the hiring of the following three directors: Chief Technology Officer, Derek Rouch; Principal Oak Glen / VC Prep, Alicia Graeff; and principal of the Pauma school, Dominic Camacho.


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