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District Responds To Threats, Directs Protestors Elsewhere
Protest OAK
On Thursday afternoon, Feb. 3, several students walked off the Oakdale High School campus and made their way to the corner of South Third and East G, joining parent protestors seeking an end to the mask mandate in schools. Three days of protests, including some threats being made to district employees on Friday, prompted postponement of the scheduled Monday night, Feb 7 school board meeting. Marg Jackson/The Leader

Three days of protests – which started with a handful of people having an impromptu meeting outside the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Office with Superintendent Dr. Dave Kline – escalated over a few days and ended with postponement of the Feb. 7 board meeting.

The action came following threats made to some school district employees and staff members on Friday, as Wednesday’s small crowd grew larger and more vocal each day.

Thursday, several students walked off the Oakdale High School campus and joined the adult protestors at the corner of South Third Avenue and East G Street, taking part in the ‘Let Them Breathe’ effort.

Parents, grandparents, local residents and students all called for an end to the mask mandate in schools. And while the state is repealing the indoor mask mandate for vaccinated individuals after Feb. 15, the mandate remains in effect, for now, in schools.

That was the message from Kline, who told protestors on Wednesday that the district had asked for local control over COVID-19 protocols but did not have that control granted by the state. Wearing masks in class is still required of students. Those that chose not to wear them to school last week were sent to alternate sites such as the gym; this week, no accommodations are being made.

Kline indicated in a letter posted to the district website on Sunday, Feb. 6 that student choosing not to wear a mask should enroll in the district’s Independent Study program. Those unhappy with the mask mandate in schools were advised to take their complaints to Sacramento.

Initially, about 200 students across the district campuses from elementary through high school, took part in the protest and went maskless on Wednesday. The number grew and eventually reached about 300, said officials.

“Learning was disrupted, absolutely,” Kline said of the event.

Kline said he understands the frustration of the protestors but added that disrupting the educational process only exacerbated the situation.

“Instruction is crucial and they weren’t able to do that,” the superintendent said of teachers having to deal with the unmasked students and moving them out of classrooms last week.

“Until we hear differently from the state, the Public Health Department, the governor,” Kline said, they will be enforcing the mask mandate in class.

“We have parents that are frustrated,” the superintendent acknowledged. “A lot of us are frustrated. I do look forward to the day that COVID is in the rearview mirror.”

Also in the Feb. 6 letter, Kline made mention of those who are adhering to the state mandate.

“We’d like to thank parents and the over 5000 students who have come to school masked and ready to learn in the past week. Thank you for helping us preserve the educational sanctity of our classrooms,” Kline wrote.

The decision to postpone the Feb. 7 board meeting was out of an abundance of caution, following threats made by a parent on Friday, Kline said.

“Students are being regularly bullied for wearing masks by both fellow students and others,” noted Kline. “People have made it clear over social media, email, and in person that their verbal threats will become physical if they don’t get their way.”

The superintendent said district administrators and teachers are working hard and plan to focus on upholding the district mission statement of Teach, Learn, Every Day, No Excuses.