Orange County Board of Education Ignores State Health Officials in School Reopening Guidelines


Members of the Orange County Board of Education approve recommendations to reopen county schools (courtesy: OCBOE)

By Ernesto Arce | KPFK News

The Orange County Board of Education released a series of recommendations this week to reopen schools for the fall during the coronavirus pandemic. But members of the medical community, health experts, and even districts within its purview called the board’s guidelines bizarre and troubling.

The white paper titled “Opening Schools in Orange County” appears to be part of a regional trend challenging recommendations by medical experts during the pandemic. Health officials agree that safety precautions such as face masks and social distancing can help contain the surge in coronavirus cases. But across the county, many communities have pushed hard for a reopening of the economy.

During recent protests in Huntington Beach and nearby communities, residents insist that lawmakers and health experts are exaggerating the impact of the pandemic and have suggested conspiracies that it’s part of a radical leftist agenda to undermine the administration of President Donald Trump.  

Darla Krane, a resident of Garden Grove, said her neighbors told her that the coronavirus is what they called a liberal scam. “I have many intelligent friends and they’ve told me it’s not much worse than the flu,” said Krane. “People die of the flu just like this illness but it’s no reason to close the economy and ruin our way of life.”

The OC board voted 4 to 1 to approve a set of guidelines that include regular temperature checks, frequent hand washing and thorough cleanings of classrooms, offices and buses. But they’re not requiring the use of masks and said that social distancing is not necessary, adding that those measures are nearly impossible to enforce and might actually be dangerous.

That last point hinted at a myth debunked by experts and studies. It stated that using face masks is dangerous because you’re breathing in high levels of carbon dioxide. The CDC said carbon dioxide does not stick to masks, is not re-inhaled and is very unlikely to build up due to mask use.

The OC Board oversees 27 school districts serving more than 600 schools and nearly 500,000 students.

The board’s five members include representatives of chambers of commerce, the military, and charter school advocates. The recommendations were moderated by Will Swaim, president of the California Policy Center that advocates for charter schools, which the state teacher’s union said was the motive behind the guidelines.

Many districts across Orange County took the recommendations in stride.

Karen Yelsey with Newport Mesa Unified School District said most districts will heed recommendations by California health officials and begin the school year doing their best with online distance learning.

 “It really doesn’t affect us at all. The Orange County Board does not dictate what we do as a district,” Yelsey said.


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