The Tulare County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a resolution supporting local control when it comes to COVID-19 safety protocols in schools at its next meeting.

The resolution is on the agenda for the county board meeting to be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The resolution comes in the wake of the California Department of Public Health issuing guidelines as K-12 schools are set to return to full-time, in-person instruction when the new school year begins next month.

Governor Gavin Newsom has essentially issued a directive all K-12 schools in the state return to full-time, in-person learning in the state. But with many schools unable to provide physical distancing in classrooms as a safety precaution CDPH stated everyone in indoor settings at schools even if they were fully vaccinated would be required to wear a mask.

What caused the most controversy initially on Monday is when CDPH stated any student not wearing a mask would be removed from campus.

Most of the public comment period during this past Tuesday's county board meeting dealt with the CDPH guidelines. Just as the issue was being addressed during the public comment period, CDPH backtracked and stated while the wearing of masks would still be required, enforcement would be done at the local level and the language concerning the removal of students from campus for not wearing a mask was removed.

Board of Supervisors' staff has requested the board to approve a resolution reaffirming the local control of COVID-19 protocols in schools. Staff requested the board to approve a resolution “supporting delegating of authority for school COVID-19 safety protocol to local school boards to advocate for parental choice and give students the opportunity to safely return to a normal classroom setting.”

The resolution essentially endorses the option for local school districts to allow students to return to the classroom without having to wear a mask, stating students also need to be able to take part in non-verbal learning. This has been an issue that has been raised with English learners, who depend on non-verbal learning.

“Moreover, a student's ability to see, appreciate, and communicate through facial expressions is crucial to a child's social development, mental health and physical wellbeing,” the agenda item states.

The staff report noted the Centers for Disease Control and CDPH have relaxed mask mandates as they “have issued guidance that universal mask mandates are no longer necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19. State and local lawmakers, along with public health officers have recently issued guidance, orders and declarations in line with those CDC and CDPH guidelines to relax mask mandates.”

The staff report states students have essentially been able to participate in many activities without wearing a mask.

“Students have, with the downgrading of masking mandates, been attending gatherings, engaging in organized and unorganized sporting and play activities, dining out with family and friends and interacting daily in their normal routines without requirement for masking or social distancing.”

The Burton School District recently announced it would return to full-time, in-person schedule when it begins its new school year on August 10, but that the wearing of masks would be required in indoor settings.

Porterville Unified School District's new school year begins on August 12. PUSD has stated it will soon issue an announcement concerning its schedule and the CDPH guidelines.

“Our public health branch has worked closely over the last year with schools to develop safety plans and ensure all measures around an effective COVID-19 response are in place to protect staff and students of K-12 schools,” the county staff report on the resolution states. “It is imperative that the state support local school districts and their governing bodies in making determinations regarding school safety protocols so that children may safely return to a normal classroom setting and receive the education they desperately need.”

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