The board of directors of the Rosedale Union School District unanimously voted in favor of a letter Tuesday urging Governor Gavin Newsom to lift the nationwide mask mandate in schools and allow parents a “mask choice”.
“We believe that parents make choices that will provide the best outcome for their students. We supported school choice, inter-district transfer agreements and various options for virtual learning and independent learning, ”the letter reads. “It is also our goal to support our parents in choosing a mask.”
This followed its August meeting, during which the board heard about 40 minutes of public comment that was completely in violation of the state’s mask mandate. The California Department of Health mandate requires that K-12 students and adults remain masked indoors with few exceptions.
Board Chairman Michael Spickler said the Board had sought legal advice on the matter. The lawyer said the district had no leeway to enforce the mandate and could indeed face heavy fines and jail sentences if it refused to enforce it.
The letter stated that the district will comply with the regulations but will seek a change in the law.
“We will continue to follow all government guidelines and mandates; however, we ask for your support for this goal and for guidance on how to achieve this goal,” the letter said.
The letter was to the California Department of Health Director Tomás Aragón, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, State Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, and Assemblyman directed to Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield.
The public comment that led to the letter challenged the effectiveness of masks, especially for younger children.
Spickler said masks and vaccines are key to preventing COVID-19. But he is against any kind of government mandate.
“I had two friends who died from COVID,” he said. “But I’ll get up anyway and say there shouldn’t be a mandate.”
Spickler supports the district’s vaccine clinics for teachers and community members, including students. But he said he did not support a mandate and did not believe it should even come on the table, as it has in other districts.
“I am for a choice when it comes to giving drugs to your children,” he said. “I don’t think the government should ask us to.”
The local Kids First Kern group was instrumental in bringing masking onto the agenda of the local school authorities. The Norris School District board of directors also agreed to write a letter to the state at its August 11 meeting after parents and parishioners asked for the mask mandate to be lifted.
Other boards of directors, including those of the Kern High, Bakersfield City and Panama-Buena Vista Union school districts, did not begin to sway the state against the mask mandate when parents showed up for their meetings.
However, some board members have made comments expressing their sympathy for the cause. One was Kids First Kern founder and BCSD board member Shannon Zimmerman, who spoke about masks during her board comment at the August meeting. She said she felt sorry for the deceased, but said there had to be a perspective.
“Zero children died from this whole thing in Kern County,” she said.
Zimmermann, who is also a kindergarten teacher, said that both she and her students struggled with masks. She worries about how her students will learn her phonemic lessons.
“My question to the universe is: what is the metric? When do we stop with all these mandates? When do all these barriers to teaching and learning disappear?” She said.
You can reach Emma Gallegos at 661-395-7394.