Gov. Newsom 'disappointed' in Immanuel Schools for opening, Fresno County preps for court battle

REEDLEY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Immanuel Schools in Reedley flouted orders from the state and county Friday by bringing kids into classrooms for the second day of school.

"I'm disappointed obviously that they're not abiding by the local health officer whose purpose it is to simply keep people healthy, keep them safe," Gov. Gavin Newsom told Action News. "To the extent the county will be involved and the extent the state needs to be involved, we'll consider that."

The county is now taking its demands to court.

Buses and cars delivered hundreds of children to Immanuel Schools in Reedley Friday in violation of orders from the state and Fresno County.

"Our next steps are actually to have the Superior Court consider a restraining order and injunction," said county public health director Dave Pomaville. "That will take the county a few days to put together."

RELATED: Fresno County orders Immanuel Schools to shut down after it brings kids back to campus

Pomaville says the significant size of the coronavirus outbreak in Fresno County is cause for concern.

The county has made some progress in reducing the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, but it needs to cut the number of new cases in a quarter to get off the state watch lost and get kids back in school and reopen closed businesses.

"We're trying to make good decisions for our community as a whole," Pomaville said. "And so there are often times where that conflict with people's right to be able to freely move about and so forth. We proceed with that very cautiously."

Pomaville says the county only got two applications for waivers allowing schools to open.

They haven't granted any yet, but they're working to accommodate Big Creek and Hume Lake Charter because of their unique geography and small student populations.

But Immanuel didn't ask and the county is now talking to state agencies about how to handle it.

Governor Newsom told us he's disappointed to see what the school is doing.

"What happens in these instances, governors will point something out, people react and everybody flexes their muscles," the governor said. "I'm not trying to flex any muscle here. All I am trying to encourage people to stay safe, stay healthy because my absolute goal is one I think the leaders of the school share and that's to keep our kids safe, to keep them educated."

Immanuel administrators didn't return our calls Friday.

Children submitted to temperature checks when they arrived on campus, but very few people wore masks.

The school held in-person graduation ceremonies last spring in violation of a county order.

It took a government Paycheck Protection Program loan of between $350,000 and $1 million. That program offers loan forgiveness and does not require the school to be open for in-person instruction.

The county is less forgiving and if they win the court injunction, the school would possibly have to pay fines of $1,000 a day dating back to Friday.

"As soon as we model good behavior and don't send mixed messages, then the sooner all of us go back to school we all achieve our respective goals," Gov. Newsom said. "So that's my hope and expectation and I say that with a deep love and deep reverence for the teachings of that school."
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