Mariposa County school cancels classes Friday due to face mask issue

MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- For the second time this week, classrooms sat empty at Woodland Elementary. Only this time, it wasn't weather conditions that led to the cancellation of classes.

Dozens of parents, students and residents gathered at Mariposa County Unified School District offices to give a voice to those wanting a choice.

"I'm not going to die on the hill of the mask, but I do think it's a nuisance and it distracts from the learning experience," says Keasha Blew.

"My son specifically said he's tired of wearing the mask, it's more of a distraction to him," says Robert Hill. "They're already separated far enough inside the classrooms."

Hill says for his student, masks are doing more harm than help.

But the district's decision to cancel classes at Woodland after several demonstrations during the week came as a surprise to Hill -- but calls it a learning opportunity for his son.

428 "This is a chance to educate my child on his freedom of speech and civil liberties," he said.

District leadership wouldn't comment on camera but superintendent Jeff Aranguena issued a statement that reads in part, "This week, our Leadership Team and Woodland Elementary staff, students, and parents were put in a situation where no good alternatives were available under the current K-12 mask mandate and Cal/OSHA mask requirements." For many of us, it was the single most difficult week in our educational careers."

Mariposa County sheriff's deputies were on hand to make sure the demonstrations stayed peaceful.

Sheriff Jeremy Briese's son goes to Woodland Elementary and asks people to keep their protest focused on the issue and not people.

"My message is to be respectful, to work through the problems and work together as a community," he said.

Classes are set to resume at Woodland Elementary on Monday, but the district has made it clear they will not be providing an alternative setting for students if they choose to protest mask mandates.

The superintendent says he is eagerly awaiting Governor Newsom's press conference on Monday to see if the state plans follow the CDC's new mask guidance.
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