Masks, vaccinations continue to fuel debate in San Diego County school districts

Coronavirus

VISTA, Calif. – Mask-choice advocates continue to rally before the start of the school year, now adding “vaccine choice” to their cause amid a state announcement this week mandating vaccinations for teachers and school staff.

Another demonstration was held Thursday ahead of a Vista Unified School District Board of Education meeting. The district’s board mandated masks for all, regardless of vaccination status, to attend and speak during the meeting, but demonstrators repeatedly pushed back on the requirement, triggering several delays during the evening until all perspectives were heard.

Masks and vaccination mandates were not on the district’s agenda Thursday, so no action was taken on either topic.

“If you don’t want your students to wear a mask then please help them look for other alternatives for education,” parent Karie Winchester said. “Don’t burden an already overlooked system by whining and not getting your way.”

The advocates of the group Let Them Breathe argue their children are suffering socially and mentally by staying masks during the school day. In California, masks are required to be worn in indoor school settings regardless of vaccination status.

This week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a policy requiring all school teachers and school employees show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or submit to weekly testing. Under the policy, educators have until mid-October to get the vaccine.

“This mandate just seems sad,” teacher Nicole Reick said. “What it’s going to do in our schools, it’s going to create a divisive culture because the teachers who wanted the vaccine got it and the teachers who did not want it, did not get it.”

Supporters of the Let Them Breathe campaign gathered prior to the meeting to gin up support, as they’ve been doing throughout the county for months.

A FOX 5 reporter spoke with district parents unable to attend Thursday’s meeting in person.

Parent Jennifer Mohn says she’s in favor of the mask mandates and any precautions implemented to keep children safe.

“You’re seeing this huge, massive group and you start to wonder, ‘Wow is this really how everybody does feel?'” she said. “I know in our household and close friends, they want the masks. They want to know the kids are going to school safe.”

As of now, Vista Unified leaders say they plan to follow state guidelines for masks on campus, but they have not publicly taken a stance on the latest vaccine mandate.

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