FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A judge on Tuesday refused to immediately order classrooms closed at a private school in California’s Central Valley that has defied state and local health orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Immanuel Schools in Reedly reopened its campus on Aug. 13. News reports showed students without masks and not practicing social distancing.
County health officials had argued that the school is threatening the health and safety of students, faculty and community.
Superior Court Judge D. Tyler Tharpe denied Fresno County health officials’ request for a temporary injunction barring in-class instruction, although another hearing is set for Sept. 15.
Immanuel Schools offers kindergarten through 12th grade classes on a single campus. The private Christian school has about 600 students.
“We have seen first-hand the importance of having school on campus based on the excitement of our students and communication with our families, while also not having a single COVID-related illness,” the school said in a statement. “While we are grateful for the opportunity to provide on-campus learning, which we believe all students need and deserve, we know today’s decision is not permanent. Therefore, we will continue our legal efforts defending our rights to remain open.”
The school is suing Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state health director over the health order.
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.
Health officials have barred in-person learning until the county is off the list for 14 straight days.
Most school districts started their new academic years with online instruction.
Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, about 450 students, staff and community members came out to show their support and few wore face masks or practiced social distancing, the Fresno Bee reported.
Janet Poplin, a retired nurse from Fresno, told the paper it was her choice not to a wear a mask.
Students “are young and they are less vulnerable” to COVID-19, she said. “And we are all going to have to learn to live with this.”