The Fresno County Public Health Department on Thursday issued a health officer order to Immanuel Schools of Reedley to immediately close schools to in-person instruction, which began Thursday morning, or face sanctions and possible closure.
Violating the order could result in fines of up to $1,000 a day and other penalties, liabilities for the school district and school board, and possible forced closure, the department said in a news release.
Immanuel Schools is a private, Christian K-12 district that was founded as a Bible school in 1926 by members of the Mennonite Brethren Church, according to its website.
The schools’ spokesman and chief financial officer, Andy Souza, did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. A tweet posted by ABC30 reporter Corin Hoggard of a letter to parents indicated that the school would not grant media interviews.
Immanuel’s administration has no comment for us, but they did share this with parents. pic.twitter.com/rkcJZj1by0
— Corin Hoggard (@corinhoggard) August 13, 2020
Concerns Raised about Reopening
The Public Health Department reported that it had received numerous messages from parents, teachers, and concerned community members about the schools’ reopening, which violates the state mandate ordering the continued closure of schools in counties like Fresno that are on the state’s monitoring list because of high rates of COVID-19 infections.
Schools can reopen once the counties are off the watchlist for 14 consecutive days.
“Immanuel Schools and all Fresno County Schools have an obligation to protect the health and safety of all students and faculty,” Public Health Director David Pomaville said in the news release. “We will continue to work with our schools to provide guidance and help ensure that any reopening is done in accordance with best practices that protect the health and safety of our students and community, and is done in accordance with state requirements.”
Keeping schools closed is necessary to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus, which is sweeping across Fresno County and putting pressure on the county’s healthcare system, said Dr. Rais Vohra, who as interim health officer signed the order directing Immanuel Schools to close.
“We are in regular communication with all schools, so they understand this situation and we are all monitoring trends together,” Vohra said in the news release. “The community should understand that every decision they make to stay safe is a step in the right direction to helping reopen schools.”
Fresno County Health Officer Order