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TUSD cancels board meeting following face mask noncompliance

The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees continued their troubles with people following face mask requirements, resulting in their Jan. 4 meeting being cancelled at the last minute.

TUSD didn’t mention any specific individuals but stated that some participants would not agree to adhere to public health guidelines regarding face coverings during public meetings and is exploring remedies to continue conducting school business.

“At last night’s TUSD Board of Trustees meeting, some participants were unwilling to adhere to the current California Department of Public Health requirements for masking nor were they willing to participate remotely as an accommodation established by the District and used successfully in the past,” said TUSD communications coordinator Marie Russell. “As a result, the Board President cancelled the meeting prior to it being called to order. The District is working with legal counsel to evaluate options for moving forward to conduct school business while meeting all requirements from the CDPH.”

Participation in school board meetings have been a topic of discussion after the two student representatives on the board were asked to leave a meeting in November due to Trustee Jeffery Cortinas and others refusing to wear face coverings. The District set up a room a few doors down where members can watch and participate remotely.

Following that incident the board, after a lively debate, passed a resolution that outlined expectations for behavior at meetings when students are present in an official capacity. Those expectations aligned with state guidelines that stated masks are required to be worn when students are present at the meeting in an official capacity or do not have a parent or guardian present. The resolution did not state what the consequences were for not following the guidelines and Assistant Superintendent Barney Gordon said “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

That bridge was crossed the next meeting when Cortinas entered the meeting late not wearing a mask and a community member during public comment questioned what action the District would take. Cortinas claimed he agreed to participate remotely from another room but entered the meeting room after he was having technical difficulties; those issues were resolved during a closed session and he finished the meeting virtually.

As of right now, the District is planning on having a meeting on Jan. 18 in some capacity and agenda items from this week’s meeting will be addressed then.