After not being satisfied with a drafted letter to the California Department of Public Health that was up for approval at the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District (GJUESD) board’s Aug. 11 special board meeting, the GJUESD board voted to table the letter to a future meeting.
Superintendent Lois Yount had written a letter asking CDPH and Governor Gavin Newsom for local control in decisions and implementation of CDPH guidelines regarding indoor mask mandates. The letter also asks for additional information and steps for local districts related to masks for K-12 students, including asking possible future scenarios in which face masks would become optional for students and if the CDPH would be developing a new guideline involving local case rates and vaccination rates having an effect on flexibility of students wearing masks.
The district had presented the California Department of Public Health guidelines concerning mask mandates in the last meeting.
There were concerned requests from parents both for and against the letter during the public comment portion of the meeting; board president Tom Silva later said he had some issues with the letter and the board voted to table the letter to a later date.
There was a large number of support both in favor of enforcing the CDPH mask mandate inside classrooms and against it during the public comments; one parent noted that the pandemic has caused mental hardships for all of her children, while another parent noted that they were embarrassed that the board is considering reducing health protective measures. A fifth-grade student asked to have the option to wear masks as opposed to being required to wear them for in-person instruction, while a fifth-grade teacher noted that despite not liking masks, she’s willing to wear them to help protect her students.
The board noted that the Schools Insurance Authority (SIA) has told them that due to local boards of education and the superintendent not having discretion on whether or not to enforce the mask mandates for students and staff, the district is required to exclude a student if the student doesn’t wear a mask.
A failure to comply could create significant liability for the district, according to staff. If there is evidence that mask mandates were ignored, a judge or jury could award a sizeable amount to any party that chooses to sue the district; as a result, the SIA can decide not to cover the district legally even if someone chooses to sue.
In addition to tabling the letter, the board addressed Back to School Night, an event which normally would be indoors.
Superintendent Lois Yount reported that a decision was made to move Back to School Night to a virtual setting, since the event can draw 30-40 adults in each classroom and schools can’t guarantee that all of the adults would wear a mask.
After weighing the health risks, staff determined that Back To School Night will be presented live virtually at the regularly scheduled time that schools scheduled their Back to School Night.
Besides Back To School Night, there are multiple events that will be held in-person, according to staff, including preschool and kindergarten Meet the Teacher Days.
McCaffrey Middle School’s orientation will be held in person both indoors and outdoors. The district is considering holding the Lake Canyon meet and greet outdoors.