A new coalition of San Diego County school board members is calling on the state to end its school mask mandate and stop imposing COVID-19 rules on school districts and charter schools.
The group, which calls itself School Board Members for Local Control, argues that the state has taken away district autonomy.
“We are all elected in our local communities; we are not elected in Sacramento,” said Andrew Hayes, Lakeside Union Elementary school board member and coalition spokesperson. “We know our communities better.
Group members said they are fed up with the state’s ever-changing COVID school rules, which they say are out of touch with what local communities want and place the enforcement burden on districts. school.
“I don’t think it should be up to school board members or teachers or school administration to be the police on some of these issues,” said Tamara Otero, coalition member and board chair. Cajon Valley School. “We have enough to do to manage the education of American children.”
The coalition includes 21 board members from 12 of the county’s 42 school districts, primarily in northern and eastern counties: Alpine, Cajon Valley, Coronado, Escondido Elementary, Escondido High, Julian High, Lakeside, La Mesa-Spring Valley, Poway, Ramona, Rancho Santa Fe and Santee.
The only member of Poway Unified is Ginger Couvrette.
“Sacramento is very different from San Diego and the governor is imposing restrictions based on what is best for Fresno, Truckee or San Francisco. It’s not always the right thing for San Diego,” Couvrette said Wednesday. “As members of the school board, we are held accountable for its decisions at the local level, but we have no influence.”
“We have very knowledgeable healthcare professionals here in San Diego and we ask for the ability to make local decisions based on local data and guidance from local professionals,” she added.
Many of these districts reopened at the start of the 2020-2021 school year after initial COVID closures.
The group is calling on the state to end its requirement that students and school staff wear masks indoors.
On Monday, the state announced it would maintain the mask requirement for indoor schools until at least Feb. 28, when it will reassess COVID data and consider changing or lifting the mandate.
Poway Unified sent a letter to parents Monday night saying state officials were not yet lifting the temporary indoor mask mandate for schools. Schools in the district will be off season Feb. 21-25, the letter says. Officials said they would continue to monitor any changes and notify parents accordingly.
State officials could not be reached for comment on the coalition, but have repeatedly said its school mask mandate and other COVID rules are supported by studies that show masking helps reduce transmission of COVID.
Experts have said that no safety measure can entirely eliminate the risk of spreading COVID. But having several measures such as masking, vaccinations and quarantines helps to reduce the risk of spread and, more importantly, the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID.
And while some of the most vocal parents of students are those who say they are tired of masks and other COVID measures, there are other parents who fear that COVID will spread in schools and he does not come home to vulnerable family members.
The coalition is also asking Governor Gavin Newsom to end the COVID state of emergency, which has allowed Newsom to enforce wide-ranging executive orders in the name of public safety. The group says it’s time to treat COVID as endemic and a normal part of life, rather than a pandemic.
“Two years is not an emergency measure. That’s something else,” said coalition member Rodger Dohm, who sits on the Ramona school board.
Hayes said the group also wants Newsom to veto proposed legislation that would bar students from personal belief exemptions to the COVID vaccine and add the COVID vaccine to the state’s list of mandatory school vaccinations.
Here are the members of the coalition:
- Alpine: Joe Perricone
- Cajon Valley: Tamara Otero, Jill Barto, Jim Miller, Jo Alegria, Karen Clark-Mejia
- Coronado: Esther Valdes Clayton
- Escondido Syndicate: Joan Gardner
- Escondido Union High: Dane White
- Julian Union High School: Katy Moretti
- By the Lake: Andrew Hayes, Lara Hoefer-Moir
- The Mesa – Spring Valley: Megan Epperson, Sarah Rhiley
- Poway: Ginger Coverage
- Ramona: Bob Stoody, Rodger Dohm, Dawn Perfect
- Rancho Santa Fe: Jee Manghani, Rose Rohatgi, Annette Ross
- Health: Dustin Burns
Editor Angela Brandt contributed to this story