FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Students at a private school in California attended their second day of in-person classes Friday despite state and county orders to close the campus.
Fresno County will now seek a court restraining order to close Immanuel Schools in Reedley, county Director of Public Health David Pomaville said at an afternoon briefing.
Immanuel Schools offers kindergarten through 12th grade classes on a single campus. It was ordered to close Thursday after it reopened classrooms in violation of a state health order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Fresno County said the private Christian school with about 600 students cannot use its classrooms until the county is removed from a state monitoring list for two weeks.
“Immanuel Schools and all Fresno County schools have an obligation to protect the health and safety of all students and faculty,” Pomaville said in an earlier statement.
The order also is designed to “address the strain upon the health care system” from COVID-19, the statement said.
News reports said students gathered in groups at the school for the first two days of the new school year without practicing social distancing or wearing masks.
One parent told the Fresno Bee that it was the parents’ right to send their students to class.
The school’s Board of Trustees and Superintendent Ryan Wood issued a statement that said they believe “our mission is best achieved through in-person education.”
“For the majority of students, it is clear that an online education is not a substitute for an in-person, Christ-centered, relationally based classroom setting,” the statement said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday urged school officials to reconsider, saying he was disappointed to learn officials violated the health order.
“This school unfortunately is choosing not to model good behavior and do the right thing,” he said. “We’d all do well to abide by our local health officers.”
Fresno is one of nearly 40 counties on a state monitoring list because of rising COVID-19 infection rates. The county was added to the list on June 8. It has a higher rate of positive tests coming back than the state average and has reported 191 deaths.
Schools within those counties cannot reopen for classes or seek waivers for certain elementary schools to reopen until statistics show infection rates are slowing. Most school districts have started or will start their new academic years with online instruction.
“I’m not trying to flex any muscle here,” Newsom said of the restrictions. “All I’m trying to do is encourage people to stay safe, stay healthy.”