By Sarah Sikandar
Signal Staff Writer
Several Santa Clarita Valley private Christian schools have been fined multiple times for not following COVID-19 regulations, according to the L.A. County Public Health Department, which said the violations have included not following masking requirements and refusing to allow county Public Health inspectors to have access to campuses.
The three schools are Legacy Christian Academy, Trinity Classical Academy and Santa Clarita Christian School. These schools have been issued administrative citations “due to violations of Health Officer Order,” according to the L.A. County Public Health website.
Trinity Classical Academy got its first violation in January 2021. Santa Clarita Christian School was fined first in November 2020, and a latest citation as recently as January, making a total of at least seven. Legacy Christian Academy has accumulated at least 12 citations since September 2021.
All three schools have COVID-19 guidelines on their website, which are regularly communicated to staff and families. Legacy provides a plan that includes keeping the students home if they’re sick and a “compliance team responsible for establishing COVID-19 safety protocols.”
Trinity Christian Academy has a waiver of liability available on its website, encouraging parents and guardians to acknowledge that the services provided by the school, “are of such value to me that I accept the risk of being exposed to, contracting and/or spreading COVID-19.”
Santa Clarita Christian School provides more detailed updates on health and safety protocols. Unlike local public schools, however, it has no vaccination requirements for staff, students, parents, or volunteers.
The three schools’ administrations, reached by phone and email, were unavailable for comment.
While sharing the dollar amounts of the fines against the schools, L.A. County Public Health officials said, “Since the beginning of the pandemic (2020-present) Public Health has issued seven citations to Santa Clarita Christian School, with $5,000 in associated fines; 12 citations to Legacy Christian Academy, with $11,000 in fines; and Four citations to Trinity Classical Academy, with $2000 in fines.”
Natasha Flores, a Santa Clarita Christian School parent, feels confident about the school’s handling of the issue. “I’m extremely blessed that us parents have a choice about these mandates. There’s a lot of us who feel that way there. Ninety-nine percent of us send our kids there because we have that freedom of our children’s health and no one else. It only makes me love our children’s school even more that they are putting up a fight for us. There’s a reputation but it’s in no way negative.”
As states move to ease and eliminate mask mandates, religious organizations, including schools, have been able to evade most of these restrictions, citing religious and philosophical reasons.
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, representing the 5th District, which includes Santa Clarita Valley, released a statement in January hoping that state and local health leaders “re-evaluate indoor and school masking mandates now.” She has openly supported letting people choose whether to mask up. However, she has maintained that following laws is not up to personal discretion.
Other federal bodies, including the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, also reiterate the need for school policies to “follow mitigation measures strategies in order not to spread the virus,” according to the AAP website. CDC continues to recommend universal masking for all students 2 and older.
L.A. County eliminated outdoor mask requirements on school campuses on Feb 6, but masks are still required indoors on school campuses.