Students band together against COVID-19 restrictions for Visalia Unified marching bands

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VISALIA, California. (KGPE) – With the first day of school just a few days away, Visalia Unified marching band students are demanding clarity and fairness when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions.

Outside the Visalia Unified School District office Tuesday, marching band students banded together over COVID-19 restrictions they say will make it near impossible to perform.

Students say it comes down to fairness, they argue if other outdoor activities like football can go on without and modifications, why can’t they?

“We want the same opportunity, it’s about equity,” said El Diamante High School senior Dominic Huston.

The district says part of the issue is the lack of guidance from state and local health agencies when it comes to performing arts.

“It’s really exciting that everyone feels the same way that I do about band and they are all this enthralled in it,” said Kenda Anderson, head drum major at Golden West High School.

On Tuesday, the district updated its guidelines, saying they can march and play outdoors with either six feet of social distancing without a mask or with a special mask made for playing the instrument.

“We spend a lot of time together, these are my kids, I would never put them at risk,” said El Diamante High School band director, Kristen Pallas.

Pallas led her students to the state championship final in 2019.

She says most of the choreography won’t work at a six feet distance, and wants the district to allow them to practice indoors, with masks.

“All of these kids have lost enough over the year, we want them to have their seasons we just also want a season, we just also want to be treated the same,” Pallas said.

“We want to have our senior year, our senior marching season,” said David Riggs, a senior at El Diamante.

Inside the meeting, parents and students shared their concerns to the board, which maintained its stance on the new guidance and safety for students and staff.

The district says this is something they can and will revisit should new guidance come out.

But with Tulare County’s low vaccination rate and increasing case rate, the district says they will continue to prioritize the health of students and staff.

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