Turlock Unified School Board Member Jeffery Cortinas is standing by his opinion that nobody should be forced to wear a face covering.
Knowing the TUSD Board adopted a new resolution requiring face coverings be worn at public board meetings, Cortinas showed up at the Dec. 14 board meeting maskless and participated in the meeting until the public comment section, where he was called out for not following the district regulation on wearing a face covering.
Following closed session, Cortinas finished the board meeting via Zoom from a separate room.
The board passed a resolution during a special meeting on Nov. 29 requiring masks be worn at public meetings when students attend at the district’s request. That came on the heels of the two student representatives being forced to leave after Cortinas and others refused to wear a mask during an earlier November meeting.
Former TUSD science teacher Ryan Hollister, who now teaches classes at Stanislaus State University and Modesto Junior College, gave the last public comment at the Dec. 14 meeting. Hollister said he’d been watching the livestream of the meeting from home. He asked how the district was planning to enforce the mask mandate. Assistant Superintendent Barney Gordon said that “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” at the special meeting, which prompted Hollister to say “it looks like the bridge has been crossed.”
“There’s no business worth anybody’s life,” said Hollister, “Especially with omicron circulating now.”
After the public comment section, the board went into closed session. Cortinas did not return with the rest of the board and participated through Zoom for the rest of the meeting.
He said the district offered him to use a face shield after refusing his mask exemption. He then offered to participate in meetings remotely, which the district agreed to. He initially tried to start the meeting remotely, but came into the meeting after he was experiencing technical difficulties. Those issues were resolved after the closed session, and Cortinas believes a similar format will be used at future meetings.
For members of the public who wish to participate at board meeting but not wear a mask, the district offers multiple alternatives.
“There are multiple means available for members of the public to participate in public board meetings. Members of the public can view the meetings as they are streamed online, they can attend live from the Board Room while meeting CDPH requirements (that currently include face coverings), or they can view a video feed from a separate classroom setup at eCademy Charter,” said TUSD communications coordinator Marie Russell. “Members of the public can provide input either in-person while meeting CDPH requirements (that currently include face covering) or by emailing as outlined on the agenda.”