Student mask requirements dominate discussions at tense CUSD meeting

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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

At a school board meeting filled with various agenda items, one topic stood out and sparked controversial discussions: masks.

Parents and children spoke out against mask warrants for students at a meeting of the Capistrano Unified School District board of directors that began Wednesday evening and ended after 1:30 a.m. Thursday. CUSD students were required to wear masks on campus and indoors.

The start of the meeting was delayed when directors returned behind closed doors after some audience members refused to wear a mask or wear it under their noses. A citizen demand to remove the mask mandate from CUSD schools was taken off the agenda as night passed after this citizen left the meeting, apparently due to an emergency – a move that exasperated the parents present.

Members of the public were initially prohibited from speaking against masks during the oral communications portion of the meeting by district staff and administrators, who said oral communications were only for items not on the order. of the day. However, members of the public were allowed to talk about masks when oral communications were re-established during the meeting after the citizens’ request was withdrawn, as well as during the discussion of the district’s 2.0 reopening plan that will allow students to ” be on campus five days a week. for the next school year 2021-2022 starting in August.

Parents said district staff and officials were delaying the meeting, while administrators countered that they were trying to follow procedure and run the council’s business. Trustee Amy Hanacek called for order at one point. In-person capacity in the boardroom was limited due to social distancing, and a crowd of parents and children outside the building chanted, “Let the kids talk!” They also said they would vote against or recall directors, often loudly during other board discussions. The crowd outside eventually left, although a handful of parents stayed inside for the majority of the meeting. Members of the audience cheered and applauded during the anti-mask remarks.

Parent Dana Collins said the council made the kids wait all night and was rude to people.

“You can walk into a restaurant and sit down with no problem, but we have a rule that kids wear masks all day,” Collins said. “My daughters have rashes. She can’t breathe. It’s ridiculous.”

Parent Criz Booth said his kids didn’t like wearing masks because it led to anxiety issues and caused one of his son’s glasses to fog up.

“The children are suffering. They are unhappy, ”Booth said. “They should be happy to go to school.”

District officials have previously said they must follow guidelines issued by the California Department of Public Health. Whether students will be required to wear a mask inside campus during the next school year depends on the current guidelines of the CRPD. Students are allowed to remove their masks if they are outdoors and are far enough away from others, such as during physical education class or recess. Public health officials have said wearing masks indoors and around others is an effective deterrent against the spread of COVID-19.

A change in mask warrants for California could come during the state’s scheduled reopening on June 15, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California would adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that people fully vaccinated would no longer have to wear masks in most settings. .

“We predict that the hidden focus, the distant focus, all of those things could change dramatically on June 15,” said Gregory Merwin, academic director of education and support services for CUSD. “If that happens, we will absolutely plan accordingly and follow these instructions, so if the mask mandate is removed, we will immediately follow these instructions.”

Administrator Lisa Davis has said she supports the unmasking of CUSD students.

“The reality is that children 12 and over can now be vaccinated and students under 12 have not been shown to be spreaders of COVID, and COVID is not having dire consequences in this either. age group that we have seen among our seniors. population, ”Davis said.

A resolution proposed by Davis to lift the mask mandate, effective once the mandate is lifted in the state, did not get a second. Board chair Judy Bullockus said the issue could be raised again at the June meeting.

In other news from the meeting, the board approved cultural competency classes for K-12 students.e. The lessons aimed to introduce students to age-appropriate material on empathy, belonging, compassion, being honest, conflict resolution, identity, effective communication, and conflict resolution skills. problems, according to district staff. The meetings will be one lesson per grade level per year and should not take up a huge amount of teaching time, Merwin said.

The lessons offered have received mixed reactions from parents in recent months. Parents against the lessons, including those from the May 19 meeting, said it pushed a far-left agenda and increased division among students instead of encouraging unity and community. Some have compared the lessons to critical race theory, a claim rejected by Merwin.

Other parents support the lessons as they aim to encourage empathy and raise awareness of the culture. The board voted, 4-3, to approve the lessons. Directors Hanacek, Pamela Braunstein, Gila Jones and Krista Castellanos voted yes. Directors Bullockus, Davis and Martha McNicholas voted no. A handful of parents who had stayed for most of the meeting left in anger at the approval of the classes.

Featured photo of August de Richelieu de Pexels.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the town editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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