The Fresno County Public Health Department will seek a Superior Court injunction next week to order Immanuel Schools of Reedley to stop in-person instruction, director David Pomaville said Friday.
The department issued a public health officer order on Thursday — the same day the private K-12 school district opened for classes for the new school year — directing Immanuel Schools to close its doors or face sanctions. However, students returned on Friday for classes.
Under a mandate from the state of California, schools in counties like Fresno that are being monitored by the state for high rates of coronavirus infections must remain closed to in-person instruction but may reopen once the county has been off the watchlist for 14 consecutive days.
The state order is enforced by the county Public Health Department.
Officials with Immanuel Schools were not available for comment Friday afternoon. Officials sent a letter to parents Thursday saying that they wouldn’t speak to the media.
No Other Schools Reopen
Immanuel Schools are the only schools in Fresno County that have defied the state order and reopened, Pomaville said.
The county health officer order includes provisions for $1,000 a day fines and forcible closure. Pomaville said the fines wouldn’t be levied until the Superior Court issues the restraining order for the school to close, but they could be assessed retroactively.
Any attempt to forcibly close the school would come later in the legal process, he said.
When asked whether forcing the school to close to in-person violates the students’ constitutional right to attend school, Pomaville said health officials sometimes have to make decisions that “conflict with people’s right to be able to freely move about.”
Thus, he said, seeking a restraining order is not something officials undertake lightly, and the judicial sector is a safeguard to balancing public health needs and people’s rights.
The question of Immanuel School’s in-person instruction arose at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 briefing Friday. Newsom said he was “disappointed” by the decision to ignore the Fresno County health officer order and remain open to students.
“To the extent that the county will be involved, to the extent the state needs to be involved, we’ll consider that … I’m not trying to flex any muscle here,” Newsom said.
“As soon as we model good behavior, and don’t send mixed messages, the sooner we all go back to school,” he said.