OCEANSIDE, Calif. – The Oceanside Unified School District board confirmed Tuesday evening it will follow state guidance on masking, requiring they be worn by everyone indoors regardless of vaccination status.
“We take the directive from the county health department and from Dr. Wilma Wooten,” Superintendent Julie Vitale said. “The guidance is clear. Everyone in the K-12 setting is expected to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination and enforcing the mandate is not optional.”
The California Department of Public Health has given its recommendation on masks for the following school year and it has stated enforcement will be up to individual districts.
Vitale’s remarks ran contrary to the whims of a group of parents rallying for mask choice in schools as they gathered outside prior to Tuesday’s meeting.
“No one’s asking to ban masks on kids,” Jaime Ballard said. “This is mask choice. If a parent or child wants to wear a mask, absolutely they can. But to force other children to wear a mask when it’s not good for them mentally, it’s not right.”
Tuesday’s rally kicked off a series of protests that will take place in local school districts advocating for everyone to have the choice whether they want to wear a mask or not once the school year begins. Another rally is planned for Wednesday evening prior to the Carlsbad Unified School District board meeting.
District leaders from Carlsbad Unified along with Poway and Vista districts have written to the state, asking that at least vaccinated individuals be given the choice not to wear a mask.
It comes after both the state’s Department of Public Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended everyone stay masked inside classroom settings. Meanwhile, the CDC has said vaccinated individuals don’t need a mask at school.
“We understand you’re all in a difficult position and that’s why we are advocating to the state we are taking action to hopefully get rid of that state mandate,” said Sharon McKeeman, founder of the advocacy group Let Them Breathe. “However, you have a responsibility in the meantime. These are our children and you have a responsibility.”
Many parents have joined the movement through Let Them Breathe. McKeeman says it’s non-religious and nonpartisan with no stance on vaccines. They’re just fighting for the freedom to choose, she said.
While Oceanside plans to follow the state’s guidance, parents are hoping a planned legal battle will overturn the current mask mandate for schools.
“We’re going to keep pushing, there’s no other way,” Allyson Mineau said. “We’re not going to stop.”