Fresno County orders Immanuel Schools to shut down after it brings kids back to campus

Fresno County public health officials said they'll give Immanuel a chance to comply with the state order even though they've already warned administrators not to open.
REEDLEY, Calif. -- Fresno County issued a health officer order to shut down Immanuel Schools in Reedley after the private school brought kids on campus Thursday for the first day of school and violated state emergency orders in the process.

The first day of school at Immanuel looked a lot like every back to school day you've ever seen before.

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But this day came in the middle of a pandemic - and a few of the kids were wearing masks.

The coronavirus has infected more than 18,000 people in Fresno County and because of the pandemic, no schools in this county are allowed to open for in-person instruction.

So some of Immanuel's neighbors were not thrilled to see the kids back on campus.

"This is not just going to affect these particular families," said Jessica Bergen. "They live in our community. They go home. They visit their grandparents. They go to the grocery store. And those are all places other people are going to be and they could potentially spread it further."

Fresno County public health officials said they'll give Immanuel a chance to comply with the state order even though they've already warned administrators not to open.

But if the school refuses to return to remote learning, the county intends to get a court order to shut it down.

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Right now - that's the direction it appears to be heading.

Administrators didn't return calls Thursday, but they posted a statement on Facebook.

In part, it said, "As we believe these orders are unconstitutional, we are working with legal counsel and other Christ-centered and private schools to file a lawsuit to address these orders."


The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled coronavirus emergency orders are legal, even when they restrict religious activity.

"The 10th Amendment to the Constitution said that all powers not given to the federal Government go to the state government and the state has every right to pass laws and rules dealing with this particular health and safety issue," said legal analyst Tony Capozzi.

He says public health will typically take precedence over individual rights in times of emergency - a legal standard that seemed like common sense to Jessica Bergen.

"I don't understand why the community at large is not taking this more seriously and is not more concerned for the health of its members," she said.

Reedley police watched back to school traffic Thursday and the city plans to step up its coronavirus informational campaign, but otherwise, they're trying to stay out of the dispute.

RELATED: Some experts, parents say benefits of in-person learning outweigh COVID-19 risk

Public health director Dave Pomaville said Immanuel is the only school they're having to fight to keep kids off campus.

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