School board members, parents express concern over school closures

Lassen County school board members and parents voiced their concerns about the recent school closure order during Tuesday’s Lassen County Board of Supervisors meeting.

“I feel like our children’s mental health is basically taking a back seat to this whole thing,” Mark Rotlisberger, parent and Richmond School Board of Trustees member said during public comment. “There are a lot of unhappy, concerned parents.”

He continued to say he felt like the closure order — which was issued last week from Lassen County Public Health Officer Dr. Ken Korver — was issued without much explanation as to why.

“It seems like this is just a random decision that wasn’t explained well to the superintendents of the schools,” he continued.

The closure order for in-person K-12 instruction, which allows for the provision of targeted, specialized support services in small, stable cohorts, was issued Nov. 23 and is in effect through Dec. 31.

“Due to the rapid increase of positive cases within Lassen County and in order to protect the health and safety of our families, employees, and the community at large, we are looking at various mitigating strategies to slow the spread of the virus. We are committed to keeping the community informed of any changes regarding this order and ask that you please work together to slow the spread of this virus,” read the statement issued with the school closure order.

Rotlisberger asked the supervisors if the health officer could discuss the matter at a future meeting.

Additionally, parent and Janesville School Board of Trustees member Lee Bailey also expressed concern over the order.

He questioned why the schools that hadn’t reached their “trigger points” for stopping in-person instruction also had to close.

He also shared various school districts polled parents and guardians about whether they wanted in-person instruction, and for his children’s school, he said, the majority opted in.

Bailey also mentioned some parents have been coming to him to express dissatisfaction and he wanted to pass the comments along to the county.

During a special meeting last Wednesday, others also expressed their concern about the order.

During that meeting, Health and Social Services Director Barbara Longo discussed the matter.

“(With) the spread of this virus and the intensity of it, our health officer decided we needed to do something,” Longo said Wednesday. “He felt, in the best interest of the community at large, that he would close the schools. Again, it wasn’t an easy decision”

Longo noted the decision to close the schools to in-person instruction stemmed from a broad look at contract tracing and activities taking place, the rapid rate of transmission and the increase of symptom severity.

“We weren’t looking at one sector, we were looking at the community at large,” said Longo. “We’re just asking that people really take it seriously and just take a pause.”

County Administrative Officer Richard Egan also commented last Wednesday that, if the situation changes, the public health officer has the ability to rescind the school closure order.

As of Tuesday evening, Nov. 30, there were 293 active COVID-19 cases in the community.