Education · Fresno · Highlight

Fresno Co., state settle legal fight with Immanuel Schools

The back-and-forth battle between Immanuel Schools and Fresno County and the state of California has come to an end. 

The Reedley-based private Christian school district reached a settlement with Fresno County and the state, signing a tentative agreement last week in which Immanuel Schools will follow a reopening plan approved by county interim health director Dr. Rais Vohra. 

Along with Immanuel Schools abiding by county COVID-19 guidelines, the state and county are no longer requesting that the private school district pay a fine for operating on-campus school in violation of a court order that directed the district to close. 

The agreement also sees both sides drop all claims and counterclaims that had been filed against each other. 

Initially, Immanuel Schools defied the county and state by reopening for in-person instruction in August at a time when Fresno County schools were required by the state to remain closed due to the pandemic. 

However, Immanuel Schools only closed down from Oct. 8 to Oct. 12, remaining open the rest of the time and in turn violating Fresno County Superior Court Judge Tyler Tharpe’s preliminary injunction to halt in-person instruction. 

Fresno County notably stayed in the red tier of the state’s COVID-19 reopening blueprint for the third consecutive week on Oct. 13, meaning all schools in the county were given the permission to reopen. 

As part of the fight, the state and county requested that Immanuel Schools be found in contempt of court for violating the preliminary injunction. 

Tharpe is set to review the contempt claim – as well as Immanuel Schools’ already-approved reopening plan – on Tuesday. 

Under the reopening plan, Immanuel Schools will conduct temperature checks for all students before they enter the campus, and all students in third grade and above will be required to wear a face covering unless there is a medical exemption. 

The district will also follow other health-safety guidelines such as staggering recess and lunch times by classroom cohorts and sanitizing the playground equipment between each use. 

Immanuel Schools has also agreed to cease in-person instruction at a time when there are multiple coronavirus cases in multiple class groupings, or when at least 5 percent of the total number of students and staff has tested positive within a 14-day period. 

The district has also agreed to on-site inspections from the county with a 48-hour notice.

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.