Escalon Unified School District’s first official board meeting during the new 2021-22 school year featured plenty of residents concerned about the ongoing mask mandate.
Students are required to wear masks indoors on campus; the EUSD Board had previously sent a letter to the California Department of Public Health seeking a review and possible rescinding of that mandate. Officials estimate that more than two dozen people attended the Tuesday, Aug. 17 board meeting and several did speak about the mask mandate.
“The board appreciates comments from the community but unfortunately the Brown Act, the law that governs meetings, does not allow board comments or discussion on items not on the agenda,” District Superintendent Ron Costa said of the board able to hear crowd comments but not discuss the mask mandate in detail. “There were speakers who were very passionate about students having to wear masks but there were also speakers saying that they understand that this is a state mandate and local school boards do not have a choice.”
The board’s earlier letter did ask about the rescinding of the mandate; the district in turn got a response from the CDPH, dated Aug. 13, providing the reasoning behind the continued requirement.
“In the face of the ongoing pandemic, the California Department of Public Health sets minimum standards for recommended and required guidance related to the prevention and mitigation of COVID-19 in California schools,” the letter noted. “Local Health Officers are authorized to be more restrictive in their orders. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and sure that all students are safe, California will continue to require that masks be worn by all individuals indoors in school settings, subject to the exemptions provided in CDPH’s Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings. Our underlying goal remains to ensure that all California students have access to safe and full in-person instruction.”
The letter was signed by Tomas J. Aragon, Director and State Public Health Officer for the California Department of Public Health.
But there could be some light at the end of the very long tunnel; as the CDPH plans to continue monitoring and assessing the situation.
Aragon reported that the department will determine, “no later than November 1, 2021, whether to update K-12 mask requirements or recommendations.”
In other district news, Costa said the first week in Escalon ended with student enrollment numbers down slightly from the prior year.
“We are down approximately 50 students with a total enrollment of 2913. We will probably begin to make that up as the year progresses,” Costa explained. “We do have a few students, eight, who have requested to go on independent study but will more than likely come back to in-person instruction some time during the school year.”
The school board also accepted Costa’s letter of retirement, effective June 30, 2022; the end of the current school year. The board could vote on a contract for the next superintendent, current Assistant Superintendent Ricardo Chavez, at the Sept. 7 meeting.