Members of the Escalon Unified School District Board of Education don’t want students to have to wear masks in class.
And they have sent a letter to several state officials making that request.
The letter was sent to Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary, State of California Health and Human Services; Dr. Naomi Bardach, Safe Schools for All Lead, California Department of Public Health and Dr. Tomás Aragón, Director, California State Public Health Officer, California Department of Public Health. It is a letter similar to others being sent by other school boards across the state as students prepare for a return to campuses.
Following is the letter from the EUSD board.
Dear Dr. Ghaly, Dr. Bardach, and Dr. Aragon:
First, we wish to acknowledge our appreciation for how difficult the decisions that have been made over the last year have been for each of you. However, at this time we are writing to express our extreme concern regarding the recent decision that our students continue to wear masks for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year. We respectfully request that you reconsider your decision on the recently released masking guidelines for schools.
The Escalon Unified School District received a waiver to open our elementary school sites in late September. Our elementary students began returning to in-person instruction October 8, 2020. Our waiver for our secondary schools was approved in late October and our secondary students returned to in-person instruction on November 12, 2020. The majority of our families and staff were thrilled to have children back at our schools in physical classrooms. Masks were required for all students and staff and our community completely complied. They were willing to do anything to have children back in classrooms. We were able to return some normalcy to the lives of our students and their families. Our school board and district staff assured our community that we would return all practices back to normal as soon as we possibly were able to safely do so. We followed all the rules, resisting strong community pressure to ignore some unpopular CDPH guidance. As you know the task was extremely challenging with the creation of numerous procedures and protocols for staff, students and parents that required multiple modifications as the pandemic prolonged.
It is impossible to logically explain to families why they can shop at any store, vacation throughout our state or travel to other states, attend a large church service indoors and so on without a mask, but their children cannot attend school and be in class without a mask. Children are spending 18-19 hours per day without a mask yet are required to wear them to attend school. With approximately 70 percent of California adults vaccinated, including a large percentage that have naturally acquired the virus and recovered, it does not seem to make sense as to why children who are less likely to transmit to adults must wear the mask. Children under 10 represent less than 1 percent of all COVID-19 cases. The risk of harm to children is much lower.
This new guidance, “consistent with the guidance from 2020-21 school year, school must develop and implement local protocols to enforce mask requirements. Additionally, schools should offer alternative educational opportunities for students who are excluded from campuses because they will not wear a face covering,” does not help support a concept of returning to the 2021 school year with some sense of normalcy or fresh start. We have been able to contact trace, quarantine and test to collect data regarding physical safety of staff and students but we have yet to see any quantifiable evidence of the affects that wearing masks, social distancing and the devastation of the virus to some family units has had on the emotional health of our students.
If the expectation is that local law enforcement and public health are not obligated to enforce mask policies throughout their jurisdictions, then how does it seem equitable and fair that school districts bear the burden of this societal responsibility?
Please, we appeal to you to reconsider your newest guidelines as of July 12, 2021.
The letter includes the names of all five board members: President John Largent, Vice President Nicolas Caton, Clerk Kate Powell and members Richard Thompson and Janai Stanton.
Meanwhile, local campuses are being readied for the start of the new school year and District Superintendent Ron Costa said the administrative staff remains the same as last year.
The site administrators are: EHS Principal Eric Simoni and Asst. Principal Jason Furtado; El Portal Principal Mark Vos and Asst. Principal Mike Gaston; Vista Principal Gus Arzac; Dent Principal Anthony Varni and Asst. Principal Robert Fyke; Van Allen Principal Julio Zambrano; Collegeville and Farmington Principal George Megenney; Escalon Charter (Gateway) Principal Joel Johannsen.
“Our new teacher orientation is this Friday morning in the board room. We have a very large group of new teachers due to retirements, people moving out of the area and the addition of several new positions,” added Costa. “We added intervention teachers, a music teacher, a Spanish teacher, a dual immersion teacher, an instructional coach, and a homeschool teacher. We have 26 new teachers and they are at all sites.”
Students return for the first day of school on Thursday, Aug. 12.
Times Editor Marg Jackson contributed to this story.