An estimated 200 students throughout the Oakdale Joint Unified School District went to class Wednesday, Feb. 2 without masks.
Part of a coordinated “Let Them Breathe” effort put forth by parents, the students taking part were at all grade levels and in nearly every school in the district. OJUSD Superintendent Dr. David Kline said he believed that the only campus not impacted was East Stanislaus.
“Learning was disrupted, absolutely,” Kline said of the event.
For those students that came to class without the masks – currently mandated in California schools – Kline said teachers offered them a mask or, if possible, the alternative of a face shield. Students that chose not to wear any type of face covering were removed from class.
Initially sent to the office, parents were informed of the students being taken out of class, Kline explained, and then all students involved were moved.
“They went to the cafeteria, or the gym, an alternative setting,” Kline said.
But, with the diversity of grade levels, there really was no way to provide for a full instructional day in those alternative settings. Those students that had access to their Chromebooks could do some work, but there was no formal instruction for the masked students on Wednesday.
“Instruction is crucial and they weren’t able to do that,” the superintendent said.
He did have an informal meeting Wednesday morning with a group of parents that gathered outside the district office on South Third Avenue, many carrying signs against the mask mandate. Kline, along with Deputy Superintendent Pupil Services and Facilities Larry Mendonca and Assistant Superintendent Human Resources Craig Redman, fielded some questions and also had a dialogue with the parents.
Kline said while they may share many of the same concerns, they still have to adhere to the guidelines in place.
“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.”
Kline said the goal is to keep campuses operating as normally as possible even if the student mask protest continues. He also said the district would risk losing state funding and opening the district up to lawsuits if they disregarded the mandate.