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TEMPLETON, CA – At a high energy standing room school board meeting several hundred members of the public attended in person, and another 250 members of the public on Zoom; the Templeton Unified School District met Thursday evening, February 24, 2022, to discuss face mask policies.
After the meeting started almost 45 minutes behind schedule, Superintendent Aaron Asplund introduced the mid-meeting agenda item on face masks saying “Paso Robles elected to adopt a resolution that made masks optional,” which was met with very loud cheering from the hundreds gathered there.
In public comment, parent after parent in the room shared stories of trauma and strife from the mask mandates. One mother spoke of her middle school daughter being left out in the weather for not wearing a mask. “They are not animals. They are human beings,” the mother said, “Not one mandated reporter to report abuse stood up for our children.”
Others, had a different perspective, such as one parent identified on Zoom as “Dr. Susana A. Lopez, PhD (she, her, ella),” who brought her five-year-old daughter on Zoom to talk about how masks do not harm her and help her younger sibling stay safe from Covid-19.
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Dr. Nelson Yamagata, president of the board, and a neurologist affiliated with Twin Cities Community Hospital commented with a self-congratulatory air “What we’ve done during this pandemic is really pretty good,” referring to the policies of masking, social distancing, contact tracing, and hand washing.
In the meeting, board members freely revealed personal medical details, with Trustee Ted Dubost mentioning that he was “doubled vaxxed and boosted,” and that more discussion might be needed on the mask topic. Trustee Mendi Swan commented that her entire household was vaccinated and though she was “completely over the mask,” that mask decisions should be handled at the state level.
These three seats are up for election in November 2024, making them eligible for recall. Two other seats, currently occupied by Trustee Jan Nimick and Trustee Matt Vierra are up for election in November 2022. Both Rivera and Nimick appeared remotely by Zoom. All board members in the room were masked, despite the county no longer having an indoor mask requirement for public meetings.
Governor Gavin Newsom is scheduled to give a public statement on face mask recommendations Monday, February 28. It is unclear what position will be proposed by the Governor.
At the suggestion of board member Matt Vierra the board will not wait two weeks to meet but will come back Tuesday, March 1, 2022 to immediately incorporate the February 28, 2022 information from Newsom into board policy, or to consider parting ways with the Governor on policy if the Governor does not significantly loosen restrictions.
Under California law, the public is required to receive ample notice before decisions are made by governing boards. School boards are able to make decisions on “action” items that appear on the previously published agenda, but boards are not allowed to vote on policy decisions when an item is only listed on the published agenda as a “discussion” item. Thursday night’s agenda item on face masks was set as a discussion item.
The Templeton School Board meets on the heels of the Tuesday, February 22, 2022 decision by Paso Robles Joint Unified School District to no longer enforce the Governor’s face mask policies.
Hunter Breese, a student who helped organize a mask protest at Paso Robles High School commented about the Templeton meeting:
“It is time for the school boards of SLO County to step up, the way the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District has, and end this absurd school mask mandate. Everything is well at the Paso schools and it is the perfect example of how students can make change.”
After the Paso Robles decision to no longer enforce mask mandates, Trustee Dorian Baker, who authored and introduced the Paso Robles board resolution commented:
“This was an example of what needs to continue happening in America. Gone are the days when we can pay attention for a month, elect a few good people, and then walk away and hope for them to fight the fights. We need to elect good people, and then stay involved and help our representatives win the battles. That’s what happened last night!”
With 400-500 parents attending Thursday’s discussion online or in person in neighboring Templeton, and even more expected for the Tuesday, March 1 face mask action item meeting, Baker may have her wish of more participatory government come true.
The next Templeton Unified School District meeting will take place at 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at 925 Old County Road in Templeton, in a large meeting space across the street from the school district office.