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Some Biggs parents are demanding more mask enforcement in classrooms

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BIGGS, Calif. - Some parents in Biggs are worried the schools may not be doing enough to keep COVID-19 from spreading.

Most staff members are masked up indoors, but it is a different story when it comes to the students.

"We are highly encouraging kids to follow all the guidelines along with handwashing and social distancing as much as possible,” Biggs School District Superintendent Doug Kaelin said. “We are not disciplining or removing kids from the classroom that have not chosen to wear a mask."

Kaelin believes it should be a student or staff member’s choice whether to wear a mask or not. This type of leniency is making Peggy Hutssel worried for her grandchildren.

“My granddaughter is at high risk so she does wear a mask,” Hutssel said. “My grandson even though he is at normal risk, he is concerned for both me, his grandmother, and his sister."

Kaelin tells Action News Now that it is hard for some students to follow the guidelines since they are inconsistent with how they can mask-off while outside.

"Right now we can have kids wear masks all day at school and those same kids are going to high school volleyball, high school football and high school cheerleading where they are not wearing a mask,” Kaelin told Action News Now.

They are offering an alternative to in-person learning if  a student feels unsafe, but the program currently only has about 10 students.

"We have not seen any indications of kids being bullied or made fun of it they wear a mask or don't,” Kaelin said. “If a parent really feels like their child is in a compromised situation we do offer an independent study program that parents could move their kids to if they so choose."

Hutssel has considered the independent study program as an option, but does not like how it singles out her granddaughter.

"People need to think of more than themselves,” Hutssel said. “There are children at risk. There are adults at risk.”

Other parents support the way that the district has been handling the return to the classroom.

“I really don’t know if masks work or don’t work, but kids are kids and they need to wash their hands. That is the most important thing,” Parent of three kids at Biggs Elementary Amber Sparks said . “They are going to touch stuff and they are going to touch their face.”

Hutssel will continue to send her grandkids to school for now, but is demanding the board and district make masks a requirement.

“Not requiring it is showing a total disregard to their health and safety,” said Hutssel.

The district is still urging parents to self-check their kids before sending them to the classroom.

“If a child does test positive in a class, then we notify every parent in that class,” Kaelin said. “If their children are not showing any symptoms, then it will be their choice if they return to school or not.”

They also plan to implement on-site testing for staff by Oct. 15 when the new vaccine mandate for school staff goes into effect.

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