News

Rancho San Justo sends about 40 unvaccinated students home

A parent claims the school breached student confidentiality and did not follow district COVID policy.
Page one of letter HSD emailed to sixth grade parents on Jan. 6. Provided by Kelley Ghione.
Page one of letter HSD emailed to sixth grade parents on Jan. 6. Provided by Kelley Ghione.
Page two of letter HSD emailed to sixth grade parents on Jan. 6. Provided by Kelley Ghione.
Page two of letter HSD emailed to sixth grade parents on Jan. 6. Provided by Kelley Ghione.

Unvaccinated Rancho San Justo sixth graders were pulled out of their classrooms Jan. 6 and sent home after school officials reportedly determined they may have been exposed to COVID. 

The next day, four parents from Hollister School District gathered in front of school to protest how students were separated and the implementation of vaccine mandates in the Hollister School District. 

Several days later the district released revised guidelines regarding student exposure to COVID.  

BenitoLink twice made calls requesting comment from Rancho Principal Antonio Vela and District Superintendent Erika Sanchez. As of publication, those calls have not been returned.

Celeste Bocanegra, who has children attending Hollister Dual Language Academy, led the Jan. 6 protest, holding a sign that read “Protect Medical Choice! Oppose Vaccine Mandates.” 

“I am here to support anti-segregation,” Bocanegra said. “I am not anti-vaccine, but I am anti-segregation. I am concerned that if this can happen at Rancho, this can happen at my school.” 

The unvaccinated students were told on Jan. 6 to quarantine at home for 10 days, regardless of whether or not a negative COVID test was provided to the school, according to parent Kelley Ghione.

Ghione’s unvaccinated son, who she wants to remain anonymous, was one of the sixth graders sent home from school midday after it was revealed his class had been exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID. Ghione’s son said about 40 students were told to leave class.

The boy,11, told BenitoLink that his principal (who was substituting for his class) “asked the entire class who was vaccinated and who wasn’t, and he told the unvaccinated people to get their backpacks on and follow the vice principal to the front office.”

He said the same incident happened in one other sixth grade classroom at the school and that after they exited their classrooms, some of the students waiting for parents were crying.

Ghione told BenitoLink she was upset by how administrators at Rancho San Justo forced unvaccinated students to identify themselves in class, and seated them separately to wait for their parents.

“What [the school] did was more like a segregation thing,” Ghione said. “All the kids had to get their stuff in front of the other students and kind of get segregated from the rest of them, so they had to separate them out. So it was more like a confidentiality issue, because they were getting called out in front of all their friends.”

Ghione said she spoke with Vela about the incident. She said his response was that he would get clarification from the district office.

She said she then met with Sanchez, who provided her with HSD Nov. 24 guidelines on handling unvaccinated students exposed to COVID.

“In the protocol, it says that only if a student that tested positive wasn’t wearing a mask, they need to go home,” Ghione said of the guidelines she was given. “My student was wearing a mask. According to the protocol, he should be going to school. And then she said she had to make a call to the state to make sure this is accurate. The state says something different” than the district’s original Student COVID-19 Guidance, she said. 

Those guidelines say that unvaccinated students, wearing masks indoors, who are exposed to a COVID case, must quarantine for 10 days. There are two choices for parents:

  • Students may quarantine at home for 10 days and enroll in short term independent study.
  • Students may attend school on a modified quarantine if the following conditions are met: Continue to quarantine for all extracurricular activities at school, including sports, and activities within the community setting, closely monitor for symptoms and remain asymptomatic, continue wearing a face mask, and get tested twice during the 10-day period (day 3 and day7).

Sanchez indirectly addressed the matter at the start of a special board meeting Jan. 10. She said, “If a student is unvaccinated, and both parties are masked, there could be a standard quarantine or a modified quarantine. The importance to that is that both parties have to be wearing a mask. This requires our schools to know whether your child is vaccinated or not.”

The HSD board's special meeting on Jan. 10 prompted a number of public speakers calling to voice opinions and concerns. Photo from YouTube.
The HSD board’s special meeting on Jan. 10 prompted a number of public speakers calling to voice opinions and concerns. Photo from HSD YouTube.

Ghione called in as a public speaker at the Jan. 10 HSD board meeting and spoke about this incident.

“My son had to sit in front of other [vaccinated] students, and now they all know he’s unvaccinated,” she told the board. “So when he goes back to school, is he going to get bullied? Is he going to be looked down upon? Is he going to get harassed because of his vaccination status? [The school] did not follow protocol whatsoever.”

Fred Mancebo also called in to the Jan. 10 meeting. Though his children attend Ladd Lane he said he wanted to address the incident of students being pulled from their classrooms at Rancho San Justo. 

“We need to ensure that there is a policy that is in place if something happens like this again,” he said. “The children have too much pressure and too much stress on them as it is. Now they need to worry about getting pulled out of classrooms and singled out? These children need to be thought of first and they need an immediate apology, as soon as tomorrow.”

According to Ghione, and to parents who called in for public comment at the Jan. 10 board meeting, the district’s administrators have not been updating parents of the Student COVID-19 Guidance’s revisions as frequently as they should. Many parent speakers at the board meeting also felt the district needed to ensure that communication among parents is done through both email and posted letters and in both English and Spanish. 

HSD posted new Student COVID-19 Guidance protocol on Jan. 14. It’s available online here.

The new document says fully  vaccinated students and those previously infected with COVID-19 within the past 90 days who are exposed to a Covid case, whether wearing a mask or not, do not need to be quarantined. 

Unvaccinated students, where both parties are masked, must quarantine but have a choice between Standard or Modified Quarantine. 

  • Standard Quarantine- Student may quarantine at home for 10 days and enroll in short term independent study. 
  • Modified Quarantine: Student may attend school ONLY if the following conditions are met: 
    • Continue to quarantine from all extracurricular activities including sports, and activities within the community setting, closely monitor for symptoms and remain asymptomatic, continue wearing a face mask, and get tested twice during the 10 day period (day 4 and day 7).    

Unvaccinated students, not wearing masks indoors or for whom the infected individual was not wearing a mask during the exposure, must  go on Standard Quarantine (at home).

  • If it is a one time exposure, the student will quarantine for 5 days from the date of last known exposure. Test on day 5. Quarantine may end after day 5 if symptoms are not present and a negative covid test on day 5 or after. If unable to test or symptoms are present quarantine can end after 10 days if symptoms have resolved. 
  • If it is an ongoing exposure, as is the case when a household member is positive, the student must quarantine for 15 days. This is due to the fact that there is an ongoing exposure in the home, as Covid is airborne.  As a result, the student must stay home while the positive household member is contagious (10 days). When the positive member ends their quarantine, the student will begin their own 5 day quarantine.Quarantine may end after day 15 if symptoms are not present 

Click the links below for additional information on vaccines for children.

Center for Disease Control recommendations for children-

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/children-teens.html

Johns Hopkins University & Medicine recommendations for children-

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/vaccines/q-n-a/youth-vaccines-still-face-hurdles

 

   We need your help. Support local, independent news! BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is committed to this community and providing essential, accurate information to our fellow residents. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s public service, nonprofit news.

 

Jenny Mendolla Arbizu

Jenny is a Hollister native who resides in her hometown with her husband and son. She is a San Benito High School graduate, and received her BA in Literature from UC Santa Cruz and her MA in Education from San Jose State University. Jenny has written for the Hollister Freelance, San Benito and South Valley magazines. She enjoys meeting new people in San Benito County, sharing breaking news with the community, and spotlighting the county’s events and businesses. When not writing, Jenny can be found performing with SBSC, singing with the Hollister VFW, or working out at Cold Storage CrossFit.