Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District board members will resume their meetings next week after a mask revolt caused an abrupt end to both meetings last month.
Board president Carrie Buck abruptly adjourned the January meeting twice within minutes of starting because residents refused to wear masks inside the meeting chambers. The board typically meets once a month.
In a special Wednesday meeting called by Buck, board members narrowly shot down delaying their meeting to Feb. 16 – the day after the statewide indoor mask mandate is expected to end. The board is expected to resume normal business at the Feb. 8 meeting.
Wednesday’s 8:30 a.m. meeting was held outside the district offices.
Parents came out to the special meeting to criticize the potential delay as well as masks.
“There’s no reason why we need to postpone this because by postponing it, you’re not allowing us to have a voice to speak about what’s important to the parents. We cannot wait two weeks. We’ve been asking for the [critical race theory] for now three months to be banned. That’s not being done. We’ve asked you to remove the masks. That’s not being done,” said Andy Falco, a parent in the district, at the meeting.
One parent called for virtual meetings instead of delaying the meeting.
“If people cannot follow the rules by wearing a mask, they should not be allowed to attend. It’s as simple as that,” said parent Sonia Dhaliwal at the meeting.
Dhaliwal said virtual meetings would lead to more community engagement.
“If you had virtual meetings where parents could participate virtually, you would get so much more parent engagement and that would be able to include the people who have been avoiding meetings because of the risk of catching COVID,” she said.
By having crowded indoor meetings, Dhaliwal said, board members are essentially stacking the audience and creating an inaccurate picture of the district’s parents.
Trustee Karin Freeman also said the community wasn’t accurately represented at Wednesday’s meeting and supported a delay until Feb. 16.
“This example of a meeting today is a problem that has caused us to delay on prior occasions. We have a responsibility to our students, and to our staff to get the district business done,” she said.
“It’s important that we have a meeting that hopefully will fall outside of the mask mandate, which may help tamp down the disruptive ways in which our ability to function have been happening for the last month.”
Buck also supported the delay.
At the meeting, Trustee Leandra Blades lambasted Buck’s recent handling of the meetings.
“We need to act more like a board, because right now the past few weeks have been an absolute dictatorship,” she said.
Blades also said there is no consistency with mask enforcement in the district and called for an emergency item to be added to the agenda to not remove kids from classrooms and campuses over masks.
“We either hold all staff, all students, all teachers, everybody accountable, or we hold nobody accountable,” she said.
Trustee Shawn Youngblood, who participated in the meeting online, agreed with Blades.
Following a recess, Blades’ attempt to approve a resolution against removing kids from classrooms also narrowly failed with a 2-3 vote and so did an attempt to put it on the Feb. 8 agenda.
Buck called for Wednesday’s meeting last week after she adjourned the January board meeting twice – less than five minutes after they began – because people refused to comply with the state mask mandate.
Initially, Buck had called for meetings to be held online for a month because of the pushback on masks.
Some parents have applauded Buck for taking a stand against people refusing to wear masks, while others are calling for her removal.
The Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District Board of Trustees is the only local school board to adjourn meetings over mask compliance although Los Alamitos Unified trustees also faced pushback on masks at a meeting in January.
In December, state public health officials once again implemented a statewide indoor mask mandate for a month as the Omicron variant began raising concerns of a winter surge.
Once those concerns became a reality, state officials extended the mandate until Feb. 15.
Issues like masks and vaccine mandates have been flashpoints of debate among district trustees, parents, students and teachers at the Placentia-Yorba Linda school district and others throughout OC.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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