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Monday's Orange County Board of Education Meeting. (Photo: Youtube)

O.C. Board of Education Votes For No Mandatory Masks, No Social Distancing In Recommendations

Individual school districts can still have the final say in COVID-19 safety decisions

By Evan Symon, July 14, 2020 6:18 pm

On Monday, the Orange County Board of Education voted 4 to 1 to approve new school reopening suggestions, including not making it a requirement for students to wear masks or social distance themselves.

New recommendations by the O.C. Board

In their recommendations, the Board did approve some COVID-19 protection health and safety measures, including daily temperature checks, hand washing, and nightly disinfection rounds. The recommendations also call for schools to remain open this fall, calling remote learning during last school year an “utter failure.”

“K-12 children represent the lowest-risk cohort for Covid-19,” noted the O.C. Board of Education on Monday. “Because of that fact, social distancing of children and reduced census classrooms is not necessary and therefore not recommended. Requiring children to wear masks during school is not only difficult —if not impossible to implement — but not based on science. It may even be harmful and is therefore not recommended.”

“Among the many compelling expert arguments for reopening our schools, a number of us were also struck by something different, something we might call advice for adults. Among our greatest responsibilities as adults is our responsibility to model courage and persistence in the face of uncertainty and fear, which is what many families are feeling with the mixed messages and confusion surrounding reopening of schools in the COVID-19 era.”

County Education Department, school districts, parents divide over the Board’s recommendations

In subsequent statements, County officials made it clear that the Boards recommendations are only recommendations, with local school boards and superintendents ultimately having the final authority on decisions such as social distancing and wearing masks.

Orange County Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares. (Photo: Youtube)

“The board majority’s recommendations are not binding. Locally elected school boards and superintendents will approve and implement plans specific to their districts based on the needs of their schools and communities,” said Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) Superintendent Al Mijares in a statement to the press. “OCDE is working to support districts in that effort, and we remain 100% committed to following and sharing the guidance of the California Department of Public Health and the Orange County Health Care Agency.”

In addition, the OCDE had already given their own recommendations in June, calling for online learning options, social distancing, and mandatory masks.

However, the Board’s suggestions had an effect overnight in Orange County. Parents have split on how they want O.C. schools to reopen.

Many parents have already formed social media groups calling for school districts to remain open with protections such as face masks, with many parents threatening to remove their children to another district or put them in charter or private school if their district doesn’t reopen along those lines.

“Many of us don’t think masks do anything and can be obstructive in classes,” explained parent Sharon Mattingly in an e-mail to the California Globe. “It’s crazy to force our kids on some of these new rules based on things that don’t work.”

Shocked parents, petitions, and early local school board decisions

Other parents have not only supported additional health guidelines like mandatory masks, but have called for the county to follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles and San Diego and make all public schooling this fall be remote.

“We were shocked,” said another parent, Laurie Wallace, to the Globe. “How could the Board even think of not recommending that students should wear a mask? We got a petition together and we’ve been writing to our individual school boards on our disgust with the decision. This isn’t an individual decision to wear a mask, not in schools. They’re kids, and they’ll be close to each other. They need to be distanced and they need masks so they don’t spread anything.”

“It’s crazy that I have to stand here talking to other parents that I don’t want their children to die.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition Laurie had sent to the Globe that asks Orange County officials to adhere to state public school COVID-19 safety guidelines had nearly 48,000 signatures on it. In addition, the Santa Ana and Irvine school districts both acted against the Board’s recommendations on Tuesday, with Santa Ana changing to a distance learning model and Irvine noting that it will not be following what the Board suggested.

With many districts expected to tell parents if school will be in physical buildings this coming semester and, if so, will they be following state or O.C. Board recommendations, all parents can do now is simply continue to fight for what they want.

“This is our children’s health and safety,” said a parent who wished to be anonymous to the Globe. “They aren’t pawns in some power play or some county feud. Their lives could be at stake over this. We want our kids to be safe and not bring the disease home with them to grandma. Because that’s what is at stake.”

Evan Symon
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9 thoughts on “O.C. Board of Education Votes For No Mandatory Masks, No Social Distancing In Recommendations

  1. Kids at lower risk from COVID-19 than they are from flu, and also aren’t spreaders. Opening schools is not only safe, but aligns with the science.

    1. You’re right; many epidemiologists are saying exactly what you’ve said here. There’s also the fact that many parents, in order to go back to work, need the schools to provide several hours of child care per weekday.

      However, since many parents believe sending kids to school without mandatory masks and social distancing is dangerous, I think a good compromise would be to offer three educational options and let parents choose where to enroll their children. One option would be physical attendance at schools with mandatory masks and mandatory social distancing. A second option would be physical attendance at schools with NO masks and NO social distancing, with parents being firmly reminded to keep sick kids home, and sick kids promptly sent home by the school. A third option would be distance learning (with improvements over the spring 2020 experience).

      Let parents choose, and have researchers keeping track of the outcomes of these three options so that we have real data about the pros and cons of each option.

  2. I don’t understand how they could vote to not have masks or social distancing. Please vote those four jokers out when they are being re-elected. I am disappointed that they can be on the board.

  3. Hey Laurie Wallace – did you make your kid wear a mask to school during influenza season, before Covid19 was part of the lexicon???

    I didn’t think so….

    If you didn’t, stop being a useful idiot to the Democrats,who want to pit us one against the other, and stop being manipulated by the hysteria that’s being fomented by the media and the Democrats to destabilize the economy in the hopes of overturning President Trump’s successful economic revival from the Obama Biden malaise economy.

    1. YES. If I was a parent in Orange County, I would be so relieved that my local school district is actually following common sense. There are thousands of parents who are writing letters to their districts for the opposite reason – to allow their children more flexibility and stop subjecting them to this insanity. If you’re so afraid of your child contracting COVID, force them to wear a mask all day, since you obviously believe it works. And the child care side of this conversation needs to be had. If the State is going to make your kids do distance learning, they should be paying for child care. Ever think of that, Gavin?

  4. Are you aware of Pediatric Multi-System Syndrome, an immune response to the Covid-19 virus that causes Kawasaki-like autoimmune response in children?

  5. Deaths age 1-24
    2018 motor vehicle: 7,632
    2020 COVID-19: 179
    Parents afraid of sending their kids to school because of COVID should be terrified of them being in a car.

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