Mike Kuhlman, superintendent of the William S. Hart Union High School District, informed the public Wednesday how the district would be conducting itself in response to the L.A. County Public Health Department’s recent “Surge Protocols.”
During Wednesday night’s district governing board meeting, Kuhlman stated that there was a requirement for indoor masking; outdoors masking would be required when social distancing is impossible.
“The direction that we have given to our site staff is that they are to send a reminder out on a daily basis that … if they cannot safely socially distance themselves that they should be wearing their masks,” Kuhlman said.
In terms of vaccines and exposure, Kuhlman informed parents that the district would be following through with a “modified quarantine,” meaning that students, regardless of vaccination status, if they are they are considered a close contact may remain in school as long as they test negative. They are also asked to upgrade to a well-fitted non-cloth mask.
However, while the testing is recommended between three to five days for vaccinated students, it is required for unvaccinated students between three to five days of being deemed a close contact.
Those who do test COVID-19 positive must be isolated, meaning they will be required to isolate from school campuses for five to 10 days — less than 10 days if they provide proof of a negative test.
Kuhlman said that the district had recently received a number of home tests that they have made available for families whose students have had to go home and quarantine, which supports what the district has been told to call by public health officials, the “test to stay” model.
“Which means for those students that have to quarantine — and test to remove from the quarantine — we can use these tests to help facilitate a rapid reintroduction of students to the classroom or to keep them in the classroom,” said Kuhlman.
Parents wishing to acquire at-home tests are encouraged to contact their individual school sites, which will give them one free testing kit per student. Each family is also eligible to visit COVIDtests.gov and receive four free, at-home COVID-19 test kits, Kuhlman said.
The Hart superintendent went on to say that the district’s commitment continues to be keeping schools open, with students and teachers working in person, alongside one another. But, he added that the only way a temporary change to in-person learning would be if the district felt so many staff members became sick that they could not safely conduct school.
Between Jan. 10 and Jan. 19, on any given day, anywhere between 68 to 111 teachers were absent due to COVID-19.
“We have to acknowledge the fact that all across our community that we have seen increasing numbers of staff members who are testing positive and therefore are not able to come into work,” said Kuhlman.
Although the trend of staff members appears to be going down recently, Kuhlman said that if campuses had to be closed due to too many absent staff members, there would be a temporary shift to independent study for at-home learning for a period of approximately a week.
“We recognize that that is not sufficient, is not the same as in person, but we are constrained by Assembly Bill 167, which was enacted this past summer,” said Kuhlman, later adding, “I do not believe that’s where we’re going and we’re going to do everything we can reasonably do to prevent us from moving in that direction.”
During the public comment section of the meeting, some parents took to the podium to express their concerns over the safety of the vaccine and how the injection may cause adverse side effects.
The Centers for Disease Control states on its website that adverse events in response to the vaccine are rare, and that 520 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the United States from Dec. 14, 2020, to Jan. 10, 2022.
Additionally, parents challenged the notions of mask mandates on school campuses. While the Hart district has continually stated that it will stay in accordance with guidelines set forth by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, others challenged the board’s masking guidelines in even their own board room.
“I have worn a mask out of respect for the authority that you have in Santa Clarita, but if your rules are not in alignment with reason, then I will no longer wear a mask,” said Santa Clarita resident Steve Petzold. “So, at your next regular meeting … I’m going to come down and I’m going to lay prone on the floor in front of you without a mask on.”
“I’m putting it on my agenda, I’m telling my wife, I’m not coming home because the sheriff here is going to arrest me, he’s going to take me away,” he added.