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Groups Battle Over Mask Mandate At Vista School Board Meeting

Exterior of Vista Unified School District office. October 27, 2020
Tania Thorne
Exterior of Vista Unified School District office. October 27, 2020

Tensions were high at a Vista Unified School District board meeting Thursday night.

Cipriano Vargas, the school board president, shut down the meeting several times because people refused to wear COVID masks.

Groups Battle Over Mask Mandate At Vista School Board Meeting
Listen to this story by Tania Thorne.

“If they do not wear their masks we cannot continue the business of the board at this point in time,” he said.

RELATED: Masks Are Not Optional For San Diego Schools

The public was moved to a different room when it was time for the public comment.

“At this point in time, I’m going to reconvene the meeting. If members of the public are still not gonna keep wearing their mask, we will have to reconvene at another location,” said Vargas.

Sharon McKeeman, the leader of the group “Let Them Breathe” attended the meeting. She was not wearing a mask because she says she has a medical exemption.

“When it came to my time to speak, they let me come into the building. But then when I got to the chambers they actually slammed the door in my face,” she said.

RELATED: Cathedral Catholic High Has New Start Date Following COVID Delay

McKeeman was unable to give her comment.

The legal advisor for 'Let Them Breathe’ sent an email to the Vista School Board stating there is no mask mandate in place. They said the board's choice to remove members of the public from a public meeting violates the Brown Act.

“Last night was supposed to be a school board meeting. So we were supposed to be able to listen and watch what the school board’s business was,” said McKeeman. “We were supposed to each have that allotted time on the microphone where nobody interrupts in, there's no arguing... and that didn't happen.”

While “Let Them Breathe” has been campaigning against mask mandates, other parents are starting to organize a counter group supporting mask rules.

Kristen Beer is starting one called Parents 4 PUSD, for Poway Unified School District. She attended Poway’s school board meeting Thursday night.

“Our goal is to let all of the other parents in the San Diego school system know that if they do not want our school districts to apply for waivers to the mask mandate. They are not alone. There's lots of us, lots of parents who are OK sending our kids masked,” said Beer.

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She added that if students have a choice to wear masks, it will create more chaos for the school and teachers.

“If they’re enforcing the same rule for everyone, children understand that. That's the rule. We all follow the same rule and that's what elementary school is all about. That's the most important thing you can teach an elementary school child, to follow the rules they don't like, because it's the right thing to do,” she said.

She said the group's goal is to balance out the noise that has been heard from opposing groups.

VIDEO: Pro And Anti Mask Groups Attend School Board Meetings

“All we’ve seen so far is this vocal minority who seem to have the time and money for protests and lawsuits and organized disruption of school board meetings,” said Beer.

Parents 4 PUSD will hold a rally outside the Poway Unified School District's office Saturday at 10am.