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OC School Board Votes To Allow In-Person Instruction This Fall Without Masks, Social Distancing

COSTA MESA (CBSLA) — The Orange County Board of Education voted 4-1 Monday evening to allow schools to reopen next month with in-person instruction.

Students and teachers can choose to attend classes without masks and no social distancing required.

A group of parents and teachers gathered outside of the Monday evening meeting protesting the idea of children returning to school without safety precautions.

Some parents, however, were at the meeting in support of the Board of Education's decision to start school with in-person instruction.

Last month, the Board of Education held a meeting with experts who concluded in a white paper that requiring students to wear masks "is not only difficult but may even be harmful over time."

It was also stated that "social distancing of children and reduction of classroom size and census may be considered, but not vital to implement for school-aged children," and advised that parents "are in the best position to determine the education environment that best suits their children rather than government officials."

If a school district "is unable or unwilling to reopen schools in a manner that resumes a typical classroom environment and school atmosphere, parents should be allowed to send their children to another school district or charter school that will provide that preferred education," the experts wrote.

"In fact, many parents stated they will opt for private schools or homeschooling if their child does not have a typical interactive academic classroom environment."

The experts advised regular temperature checks, encouraged "good hygiene with frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer," as well as the cleaning of classrooms, meeting rooms, buses and administrative offices nightly.

The panel also concluded that teachers are more at risk of getting sick from another teacher or staff member than they are from children.

The recommendations stand in contrast with guidelines backed by Orange County Department of Education Supt. Al Mijares.

"There has been some confusion, and understandably so, over the role of the OC Board of Education and our agency, the Orange County Department of Education," Mijares said in a statement.

The board's "recommendations are not binding," the superintendent added.

"Locally elected school boards and superintendents will approve and implement plans specific to their districts based on the needs of their schools and communities," Mijares said.

Meanwhile, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner announced Monday that the district's campuses will remain closed when classes resume Aug. 18. saying the "health and safety of all in the school community is not something we can compromise."

San Diego Unified also announced Monday that campuses will remain closed when the district resumes classes Aug. 31, with all courses remaining online only.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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