Parents petition Tulare County to reopen schools

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Parents made their pitch to Tulare County Supervisors on Tuesday for why schools should be allowed to reopen in-person.

"We're not going to wake up tomorrow and it's not going to go away," one parent said. "So we need to be thoughtful, have plans in place, to give these children the opportunity to learn, because I am seriously concerned about the social development and emotional development of my only child."

"Our boys need their friends, they need their teachers, they need their peers," another parent said. "I hope that you guys consider making some exceptions on these waivers so our children can thrive."

To date, Tulare County Public Health has received nine requests for waivers to reopen elementary schools.

All are private schools except for Outside Creek, which is currently operating as a day camp.

One request is being reviewed by the state, but none have been approved yet.

Per state guidelines, the county's daily case rate must be less than 14 per 100,000 people before a waiver is granted.

Schools can also reopen when a county has been out of the state's Tier 1 or purple category for two weeks.

However, schools do not need county approval to bring back small cohorts of students.

"Let's be a little bit more pragmatic and practical here in our approach," Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel said. "How do we get to yes? Can we get public health to take a little bit of a risk so that we can get at least students that are learning those foundational learning tools to get back into a campus setting sooner rather than later."

"I'm wholeheartedly in favor of moving us forward with our kids in our classroom, but again it has to be done strategically, and it has to be done in a way that we don't risk anything on our county's behalf," supervisor Eddie Valero said.

There's no indication the county will try to move faster than what the state is allowing.

But county health officials say parents' comments did not fall on deaf ears.

"Tulare County feeds the world," another speaker said on Tuesday. "But the minds and the emotional well-being of the kids in our county are starving to be educated."
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