School board sends letter to Gov. Newsom

Mask mandates and mandatory vaccines are two of the areas addressed in a letter from the Plumas Unified School District board of trustees and superintendent to Gov. Gavin Newsom and various state officials.

The trustees approved the letter during their Dec. 8 meeting with little discussion. Superintendent Terry Oestreich told the trustees that the letter asks “for additional support with the challenges that we are experiencing through mandates.”

The letter reads in part:

We presume that it is the State’s intention to create a supportive structure for public schools, thus we are requesting that more be done during this very difficult time to support our work educating children and youth with the following:

  1. It is critical to engage the public in a transparent and coherent manner by clearly reinforcing that the authority over these mandates lies with the State, and by clearly informing the public as to how they can engage with the correct decision-makers in these matters.
  2. In addition, we request that the State identify what benchmarks must be met to end universal masking in classrooms.
  3. Furthermore, the creation and implementation of COVID-19 safety guidelines, including guidelines for masks, quarantines, and the establishment of normal classroom instruction, must be tailored to local conditions and County Public Health Directors should be provided the authority to adjust all CDPH guidance and mandates to fit local conditions.
  4. Finally, it is vital that the State of California maintains the medical, religious, and personal exemptions with regard to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement. It is essential that we honor the voices of our parents.

The full letter is attached.

Plumas County Teacher Association President Suzanne Stirling addressed the letter earlier in the evening. She said that she appreciates the efforts to protect students and teachers, and she referenced many of her colleagues who are in their 50s and 60s, but said she is looking forward to the day when she can teach students safely without wearing masks.

Parent and school district employee Mary Juska also spoke earlier in the evening and discussed her concerns about mandatory vaccines. “Children will be segregated by vaccine status,” she said.

The current state plan is to require vaccine in the semester following full FDA approval. Oestreich said the soonest the mandate could go into effect would be July of 2022. A number of parents, including Juska, said they won’t get their children vaccinated and would have to find other options. The district is aware of this issue and thus included item No. 4 above.