COVID-19 letter from Nevada County Superintendent of Schools to Governor Newsom
Dear Governor Newsom,
As County Superintendent of Schools, Superintendents of the nine school districts, and Charter Directors of four charter schools in Nevada County, we would like to echo the concerns of our El Dorado County colleagues. We have served our communities through each challenging stage of the COVID-19 pandemic and we were one of the first counties in the state to return to in-person instruction while implementing the mandates of the California Department of Public Health. With the partnership of the Nevada County Public Health Department, we have been relentless in our focus on the safety of students and staff and, during this time, we have observed overall minimal in-school transmission.
On Oct. 1, your office issued a press release indicating that you are directing the California Department of Public Health to require a COVID-19 vaccination for all K-12 students once the vaccine is fully approved by the Federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA). At this time, we are aware that this mandate may go into effect as early as July 2022. Currently, there are allowances for families to decline vaccination utilizing medical, religious and personal exemptions.
It is important to understand the challenges these mandates are creating for our school community. As you are likely aware, many in our community have significant concerns regarding the continuance of mask mandates. The introduction of the vaccination mandate has created additional concerns. In listening to our community, we anticipate the implementation of a vaccination mandate, without an exemption for personal beliefs, will deeply impact schools as families leave for independent study programs or other alternatives to classroom-based instruction. A survey this week of our students and staff found that 20% of parents will pull their children from our schools if there is no exemption from the vaccine mandate. The staff number comes in at 15%. We are greatly concerned over the education of these students moving forward and how to replace an already depleted work force.
From the very beginning of the response to this pandemic, State regulations have been mandated, placing much of the burden for communication, implementation, and enforcement entirely on principals, teachers, staff, administrators, and school boards. With the responsibility to implement these mandates, school boards and administrators are left to manage the real frustrations of large portions of our public, taking time and focus away from our critical mission of serving students and supporting teachers and staff. The resulting divisions within some communities are eroding the trust and partnerships that are essential in public schools.
We presume that it is the State’s intention to create a supportive structure for public schools, thus we are requesting that more be done during this very difficult time to support our work educating children and youth with the following:
It is critical to engage the public in a transparent and coherent manner by clearly reinforcing that the authority over these mandates lies with the State, and by clearly informing the public as to how they can engage with the correct decision-makers in these matters.
In addition, we request that the State identify what benchmarks must be met to end universal masking in classrooms.
Furthermore, the creation and implementation of COVID-19 safety guidelines, including guidelines for masks, quarantines, and the establishment of normal classroom instruction, must be tailored to local conditions and County Public Health Directors should be provided the authority to adjust all California Department of Public Health guidance and mandates to fit local conditions.
Finally, it is vital that the State of California maintains the medical, religious, and personal exemptions with regard to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement. It is essential that we honor the voices of our parents.
In Nevada County, we believe in the importance of safe, in-person instruction for our students. We are asking for your support, to allow us to return to the business of educating our students in the safest and most normal way. Our students, our educators, and our communities need your support.
Scott W. Lay, Nevada County Superintendent of Schools
Katie Kohler, Superintendent, Chicago Park School District
Carolyn Cramer, Superintendent, Clear Creek School District
Andrew Withers, Superintendent, Grass Valley School District
Monica Daugherty, Superintendent, Nevada City School District
Brett McFadden, Superintendent, Nevada Joint Union High School District
Melissa Conley, Superintendent, Penn Valley Union School District
Rusty Clark, Superintendent, Pleasant Ridge Union School District
Melissa Madigan, Superintendent, Twin Ridges School District
Andy Parsons, Superintendent, Union Hill School District
Jonathan Molnar, Director, Bitney Prep High School Charter
Holly Pettitt, Director, Nevada City School of the Arts
Jennifer Dearduff, Director, Twin Ridges Home Study Charter
Michael Martin, Director, Yuba River Charter
Local author Jerry Martin has published a book explaining the benefits of puzzle-game Sudoku, titled Why and How Sudoku in Schools: A Low Tech Tool to Train Brain Gain.
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