On February 17, Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) administrators faced a flurry of complaints about masking in schools, amid a busy business schedule.
While California’s indoor mask mandate has been lifted for vaccinated residents, many in the CUSD community have expressed concern that the mandate does not yet apply to children in school. A Coronado High School (CHS) student present at the meeting, who refused to comply with the mandate as a means of protest, was consequently suspended. Her mother, Nicole Ward, and her attorney, Ryan Heath, accompanied her to the meeting.
“She is standing up for her constitutional and educational rights,” Ward said of her daughter, “to have them ignored by this council…. She sat on campus for 13 days with limited education, discrimination from staff and students, unnecessary threats, only to have her continued enrollment in that district removed.
The Arizona Heath lawyer introduced himself as the president and CEO of the nonprofit The Gavel Project and drew attention to his client’s electric jacket. “I’m here today because this girl [his client] wears an electric jacket,” he said. “Because she just wants to get the education she is entitled to under the California Constitution. Under education code 201, she should be able to have it without harassment or discrimination, and instead, her school would have suspended her.
Heath reported that CHS pulled her out of class and “stuck her in the cold – so cold she had to wear an electric jacket. This exposes you all to liability. I’m here to sue you, not just the district, but the administrators personally. You abuse children.
“Oh and by the way,” Heath said, “I’m unvaccinated and maskless, and I don’t care, okay?”
Administrator Antrim called a point of privilege for a brief break, with the audience heckling the administrators as they left. “You are all cowards,” one person shouted, while another shouted, “Drama Queen.” One person called them “child abusers”.
Given the school district’s concern for accountability in the wake of Heath’s confession, Speaker Valdes-Clayton encouraged everyone in the room who was “really unvaccinated” to wear a mask.
In the rest of the public comments, speakers continued to express their frustration with masking in schools. A parent attributed his five-year-old son’s speech impediment to wearing a mask. Another spoke of the negative effects he believes were the result of masking his immunocompromised son. “Masks harm his health,” he said.
Several speakers argued that CUSD’s hands are no longer tied in enforcing the mandate, citing decisions by the Roseville Joint Union High School District, El Dorado Union High School District in Sacramento to ignore the mandate of state mask.
In other board business, new director Bruce Shepherd was sworn in at the start of the meeting. The ceremony was attended by the village elementary school choir who performed a lively tune led by Linda Kullman.
In the reports, Principal Karin Mellina presented the CHS annual report, breaking down topics ranging from standardized testing to college readiness.
According to the results of the CAASPP tests, the students achieved exceptional results, with a better mastery of mathematics than in previous years. Principal Mellina noted that due to the pandemic, CAASPP testing was optional for students in the 2020-2021 school year, but will be mandatory for the 2021-2022 school year. On the ACT and SAT tests, CUSD students outperform national averages.
Mellina also reported that the number of students receiving Ds and Fs increased from 81 students in the 2018-19 school year to 55 students in 2021-22.
To enhance college readiness, the CHS now offers 12 professional technical education pathways, some of which include sports medicine, computer science, medical terminology, and administration of justice. Students will also be able to earn graduation credits through internship experiences with local organizations such as Inclusionado and with Sharp Hospital.
According to student council member Declan Dineen, who has been in the 4×4 program for over six months now, the challenge of the 4×4 program is its fast speed. However, he reported that the timetable prompted students to improve their time management and organization. “I think the students are getting better equipped every week,” Dineen said. “It will be interesting in a few years to see how this transition has changed.”
Jennifer Landry, president of the Association of Coronado Teachers (ACT), reiterated that the pace of the new schedule has also proven to be a barrier for staff. “I think it caught some people off guard… We have a work day where we have to finish scoring all of our finals, get into those grades and prepare for a brand new term.” Landry reported that teachers are spending at least 8 hours longer than usual preparing for their next term, “rebuilding everything from scratch.” The board has expressed its intention to act on the suggestions related to the ACT 4×4 schedules.
Administrators then returned to masks. All council members have expressed interest in hosting a community forum to clarify their authority, limits, and course of action in making decisions about mask enforcement — an idea originally suggested by Superintendent Karl Mueller.
“There was a lot of energy tonight around the masks,” administrator Anderson-Cruz said. “There is information and a lack of information out there. I think we need to listen, and not necessarily obey, but have a discussion that I hope will be civil and polite.
President Valdes-Clayton said she will be attending the Legislative Action Day for the Small School Districts Conference, asking questions and concerns about the steps needed to get out of the mask mandate, as well as the proper protocols for school districts. children removing their masks. “We will shake up and meet lawmakers like we always have,” she said, “and tell them to show us the measures, give us back our local control and cancel the state of emergency. “.
Still, Valdes-Clayton echoed the importance of the current mask policy and how valuable in-person education depends on it. “This community made a deal to bring our teachers back on the condition that we join the state,” she said. “That’s what we sold them. This is why our schools were opened before the others.
The board plans to hold the aforementioned community forum after California authorities reevaluate school mask rules on Feb. 28.
The next regular meeting of the CUSD School Board will be March 10 at 4 p.m.