As attendees of the Clovis Unified School District (CUSD) Governing Board meeting walked into 1680 David E. Cook Way, they were greeted by protestors, many of which spilled into the chambers at the Wednesday, July 22 meeting.
Many donning shirts displaying, “Unmask our Kids.” Most were parents. Some were educators and health professionals.
All were protesting the recent days after Fresno County health and school officials announced they would be following the masking mandate for schools in the fall regardless of vaccination status.
The board didn’t express whether students should wear masks or shouldn’t but agreed that there should be more local control and allowed its own choice on the matter.
“We’re not LA. We’re not San Francisco. We are different. And we believe we should be treated differently,” said CUSD Board President Dr. Steven Fogg. “I’m not making a statement one way or another, but we need local control.”
Attendees were not as satisfied with the board’s indifference on the matter. Nearly 40 people participated in public comment pleading with CUSD to reject the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) masking mandate.
“I will not send my children to school masked. I will not teach in my classroom masked. And I will not enforce my students wearing masks,” said Julie Hernandez — a CUSD educator and mother of CUSD students.
Many attendees shared the same sentiment as Hernandez, with some only pushing for a choice on masking and others rejecting masking entirely.
“I can assure you that proceeding with a mask mandate will cause many families to leave Clovis Unified. I have already pulled my child from summer school,” said Julianne Toyota. “We have been holding on to lost hope and empty promises for far too long. You have until mid-August to figure it out.”
Board member David DeFrank drafted a resolution expressing the board’s want to have local control on various issues surrounding masking.
Also in attendance at the meeting were two physicians speaking in opposition to doing away with masking, and asked the board to support the CDPH masking mandate.
Dr. Regina Laico and Dr. Erica Gastelum provided the board with a petition signed by 300 local health professionals asking the district to adhere to state-mandated mask rules. This request was met with jeers, leading to Dr. Fogg threatening to terminate the meeting.
Dr. Gastelum said that the potential benefits of masking outweigh the potential harms and noted that those vaccinated are still becoming sick and spreading COVID. Additionally, she said the community has not yet received enough vaccinations to reach herd immunity and may never accomplish that.
“The potential benefits of continuing to wear masks far outweigh the potential harms. We all want to go back to normal and not have to wear masks,” Dr. Gastelum said. “For now, we have to face the facts about another potential COVID surge, especially one that can affect children.”
Board member Yolanda Moore, who also works in the emergency room, agrees with local control regarding masking.
Moore feels that long-term safety is the primary concern for children, especially as Fresno County sees a rise in the Delta Variant and vaccine escape — the emergence of a variant that approved vaccines offer reduced or minimal protection against — which cause children to be vulnerable.
The crowd also responded to Moore’s sentiments with jeers and displeasure.
For now, CUSD plans to adhere to the CDPH’s requirements for masking as it prepares for full-day, in-person instruction.
However, masking will continue to be a contentious topic as the school year draws near, with the board planning to discuss its resolution and policies for the fall as they wait to hear the latest in California’s ever-changing updates.