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TUSD to hold special meeting after trustee mask incident

The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees will be holding a special meeting on Monday to discuss a resolution that outlines expectations for board meetings while students are present. This special meeting comes on the heels of the two student representatives to the board having to leave the previous meeting due to board member Jeffery Cortinas and others not wearing a mask, which are mandated by the state public health agency.

The resolution encourages student participation at the board meetings while following all current guidelines and requirements of Cal/OSHA, the Public Health Officer and the California Department of Public Health.

The mandate that required all individuals to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, was rescinded in Stanislaus County two weeks ago, however, the state public health agency requires all who are not fully vaccinated to mask at all times in indoor public settings and businesses. This guidance also requires all, regardless of vaccination status, to mask on public transit and in transportation hubs, K‐12 schools and childcare, emergency shelters and cooling centers, healthcare, correctional facilities and detention centers, homeless shelters, long term care, and adult and senior care facilities.

Both student representatives, Kate Ogden and Bella Kern, expressed disappointment that they were forced to leave the meeting because Cortinas and others were not following state guidelines. They are concerned after the resolution is discussed it might result in them being forced to stop attending board meetings in person.

“The board has been really proactive and flexible with all the constant changes stemming from COVID, so it does not surprise me that they are already looking toward a solution to accommodate both sides.” said Ogden, “Unfortunately, that solution will probably lean towards having us Zoom in, which I do not fault them for, they are just trying to keep us safe. It is unfortunate they are being pushed into tough decisions like this because of community members not prioritizing safety. If we do have to Zoom in, I will gladly accept that decision as long as I get to speak up for my school and do my job. The in-person board meetings have been a highlight of my senior year, but if I have to stay home to give my report, it will be disappointing, yes; but at least I will still get to be there in some capacity.”

Cortinas claimed he didn’t understand why the student representatives were forced to leave when there were other students in the audience. TUSD administrators clarified that the other students were not there in an official capacity and had parent or guardian supervision. Cortinas also called for the board to discuss enforcement of state mandates and it seems like the board felt they needed to do just that.

“If we need to talk about masks and enforcement of any current legislation the district should have brought that to the board for open and honest discussion,” he said after the incident.

The TUSD Board of Trustees special meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the Professional Development Center, 1100 Cahill Ave., Turlock. Meetings are open to the public. Meetings are also live streamed and recorded and can be viewed at: