FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – Californians across the state protested vaccine mandates for schools on Monday.
A group held a protest outside of the Fresno Health Department, with many in attendance pulling their children out of school.
“We do not want the mandates,” said protester Joana Santoyo. “We do not want the masks, and it is gonna stop.”
Santoyo’s five children would typically be in school on a Monday afternoon, but this week she let them trade in the school books for anti-COVID vaccine signs.
“We are out here, they know why they are out here as well,” she said. “We are going to keep coming out here every single time if we have to until they get the message.”
The planned protest was part of a statewide campaign that encouraged parents to let their children skip school in protest of two California mandates.
The first mandate, which went into effect October 18, requires teachers to show proof of COVID vaccination or undergo regular testing.
The second mandate, which has not been put into place yet, requires all California students to get the COVID vaccine once it gets full FDA authorization with few exemptions.
School districts’ funding is determined based on average daily attendance.
The Mariposa Unified School District sent a letter to parents on Friday that reads: “Keeping children home from school to protest the COVID-19 vaccine requirement announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom… would only result in lost learning time for your children and possibly impact future funding from students and staff within our district.”
The pandemic has made the work of operating our schools much more complex and complicated. In many ways, schools now function as an interpreter of health directives — something we have never been asked to do before — while continuing to connect students with the resources they need for learning and growth.
“We understand that families and students may have strong emotions and questions about safety measures, including mandatory masking, vaccines and testing requirements. However, keeping children home from school to protest a COVID-19 vaccine requirement announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom, as posts on some social media outlets are suggesting, would only result in lost learning time for our students. Regular school attendance has an enormous impact on a student’s academic success beginning as early as kindergarten and continuing through high school.“- Merced County Superintendent of Schools Steve Tietjen, Ed.D.
The protests come as districts struggle to find substitute teachers due to the pandemic. Fresno Unified School District’s pay rate for subs is up over 20%. The daily rate dramatically increased at Madera Unified from $150 to $220.
“We want to be innovative and try and figure out how to recruit people from outside our surrounding area,” said Madera Unified Assist. Superintendent of HR Joe Aiello. “Right now, we feel like we have exhausted the city of Madera and we know in order to fill our classrooms with the subs, we need to start recruiting other areas.”
Fresno Unified, Central Unified, and Madera Unified representatives said they did not see more absences than normal. Clovis Unified saw a slight uptick in absences for Monday.
74% of staff at Fresno Unified are vaccinated. 65% of Clovis Unified staff are vaccinated. 75% of Central Unified staff are vaccinated.