The Rosedale Union School District kicked off its public comment session Tuesday afternoon with the board president saying the trustees are in a tough spot.
"Neither the Kern County Superintendent of Schools or the school districts or their boards have any control over the statewide mandates," President Michael Spickler said.
Previously, the board voted unanimously to send a letter to state officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health, asking to overturn its indoor K-12 school mask mandate. Since then, not only has the mandate not been overturned, but a new state mandate was added: K-12 students must be vaccinated against COVID-19, pending full FDA approval.
Spickler's remarks on Tuesday were similar to what he said about the mask mandate. He was against the vaccine mandate, just as he was any mandate, but as a board member, he had taken an oath to uphold the law. Breaking those laws would create problems, such as exposing the district to liability.
Spickler added that this vaccine mandate would have exemptions for personal beliefs, religious exemptions and medical exemptions, just as the other 10 vaccines required for schools do.
Tuesday afternoon's meeting didn't draw as many speakers as the one that led to the board protesting the state mask mandate, but some speakers pressed the district to do more. One of the speakers said the writing was on the wall at the state level.
"We’re naive to think anyone is going to stop it," Beau Antongiovanni said. "I’m frustrated by it."
"We know how you feel, we feel the same way," trustee Gary Moore said.
Spickler told him that Sacramento was where he needed to take the fight. Antongiovanni said the trustees needed to be willing to put their positions on the line or resign. He said the community was looking to "elect patriots who mean what they say."
"I'll go to jail, I'll pay the fine," Antongiovanni said. "These kids are worth it."
One woman who said she had four children in the district asked the board to fight the vaccine mandate. She disputed public health statistics that have repeatedly shown it is largely unvaccinated people who are dying and hospitalized.
"It’s not the unvaccinated, it’s the vaccinated that are dying," she said. "Please stand up for our kids."
Another speaker, Kristen Dyck, said that she was unhappy with the excited tone of a message sent to parents by Crysta Silver Hill, the district's chief administrator of student support. The message was about new COVID-19 testing options for students. Dyck said that distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated students "discriminates and segregates."
"I don’t know why we’re excited about it," she said.
Later in the board meeting, Silver Hill gave a presentation explaining the district's new COVID-19 testing options. With parent permission, the district can now give students a self-administered rapid swab test. Students who are exposed to COVID-19 but have no symptoms can test twice weekly to stay in school if they are unvaccinated.
Silver Hill calls this a "test to stay" strategy. Parents who couldn't get access to a test — a big problem with recent testing shortages — could find their children out of school for a 10-day quarantine, even if they had no symptoms. Last week 47 students tested to stay, Silver Hill said. Parents who decline testing can still opt to quarantine.
"We’re trying to keep them at school, and we know parents want to keep them at school as well," Silver Hill said.
Those who are vaccinated and have no symptoms can stay in school. These guidelines are in accordance with the California Department of Public Health.
Silver Hill said the district's next goal is to roll out free symptomatic testing for students and parents in an after-school drive-thru.