ETNA, Ca. – After the community spoke out, one Northern California school district is allowing students to stay in class even without a mask. It said it created a resolution that would not discriminate against students whether they wear a mask or not.
A major misconception Etna High School Principal, Joy Isbell said people have over the district’s new rule is that they’ve thrown California’s mask mandate out the window. She told NBC5 News that’s untrue and wants to set the record straight.
A community divided, at least that’s what Etna High School Principal Joy Isbell said she was looking at less than a month ago.
“The vast majority of our community did not want their kids coming to school in masks,” said Isbell.
Isbell said Etna High School students also were outraged and protested the school’s mask mandate.
“The next day, they [students] came to school, and they said, we have a right to learn, you have a right to provide us with an education, they were not wearing masks,” said Isbell.
The school only has 170 students in the small Siskiyou County community. The principal said, of the 170 students, 115 signed a petition to no longer wear masks. She said it was getting to the point where academics weren’t the focus in the classroom. That’s when the Scott Valley Unified School Board made a change.
“They will use the flexibility granted by the state to institute protocols, protective layered measures to still uphold the universal mask mandate, while still ensuring that we have in-person learning available for all students to the greatest extent possible,” said Isbell.
Previously if a student came to school maskless they would be put in a separate room.
“They were essentially not getting the same education as the students who were in the classroom wearing masks,” said Isbell.
Now they are staying in the same room but physically distancing as much as they can. One month later the school is partnering with the community putting together a 20-person advisory committee with parents and educators. Wednesday was its first meeting.
“It really wasn’t about the masks. It was about repairing, repairing our community, it’s why a lot of people wanted to be on this committee,” said Isbell.
The committee will continue to meet and discuss the COVID-19 situation in classes.
The change means the school’s COVID-19 quarantine policy will be stricter. Students who test positive will be required to do a full quarantine rather than a modified one.
NBC5 News reached out to the California Department of Public Health for comment. It told NBC5 News it’s partnering with local authorities on how best to respond to the situation.