RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe School District board sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and state public health officials last week urging them to allow the district to take back local control over decisions regarding student mask mandates.
The letter was also addressed to Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s Department of Public Health director and officer, and Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state health and human services secretary.
The action came after more than 150 district parents wrote a letter to the board asking for the school to make student masking a choice. Parents presented the letter at the board’s Feb. 11 board meeting, prompting Board President Jee Manghani to call a special meeting the following day.
State officials announced Monday that it is keeping the student mask mandate in place until at least Feb. 28, even though it is lifting the statewide indoor mask mandate for vaccinated people nearly everywhere else.
“We anticipate making the change at that point, and that change is going to be one that I think will be met with a lot of excitement in some and a lot of fear in other circles,” Ghaly said in an online news conference.
The letter explains that the district was the first public school district in the County to provide in-person learning at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. It also emphasizes the district’s high vaccination rate of about 90 percent among the communities in the district and 94 percent among staff.
“[We] have demonstrated the ability to provide a safe learning environment for our students. We have been able to do this because of our deep and unique understanding of our schools, our local conditions and our students,” the letter read in part.
“Because the board is in the best position to make decisions regarding student masking in our own schools, we request that you return this local control back to the Board, and notify us of your agreement to do so no later than February 18, 2022,” the letter continued.
At the Feb. 11 board meeting, several parents gave public comments expressing their frustration with the student mask mandate.
“It’s time to stand up and tell the state ‘No’,” said parent Kerry Vinci. “It’s time to push back and wait and see what happens. This is not fair to our kids. We’re robbing our kids of their childhood.”
Health officials, however, are still strongly recommending that students and staff wear masks in schools.
“Local decisions are not just allowed; they’re well-supported,” Ghaly said during a news conference.