An anonymous community flyer has been circulated locally encouraging students to attend school without a mask on Friday (February 11, 2022). Over the last three school days, La Grande School District has experienced numerous events of students demonstrating noncompliance with masking. In response to these events, our intent is to remind our stakeholders of the following:
La Grande School District (LGSD) will continue to enforce the current mask mandate per ODE/OHA rules. The mandate requires all individuals 5 years of age and older to wear a face covering while indoors in a K–12 school. This rule applies to public, private, parochial, charter, youth corrections education programs (YCEP), and juvenile detention education programs (JDEP) or alternative educational programs offering kindergarten through grade 12 or any part thereof.
We remind students and families that La Grande School District is obligated to follow direction from the state. Students who refuse to wear masks per the rule will not be allowed to remain on campus and will receive an unexcused absence for the day. The Oregon Department of Education guidance states, “Schools cannot serve a student in-person if they or their family choose not to wear a face covering” (pg. 9). We want to remind students and parents that absences from school attendance will impact students’ ability to participate in sports or extracurriculars on the day of the absence per established school athletic policies.
For those planning or supporting this event and/or unwilling to wear a mask at school, we are aware of your concerns regarding the continued mask requirements in public schools. We know that you are not satisfied with the ongoing response to the pandemic and the burdens placed on our school children specifically. However, at this time, we cannot support or allow a maskless walk-in by any number of students at any school building. As we consider the potential for students to attempt to enter our buildings without the required masks, our response will follow the current Oregon Administrative Rule that is still in effect, applicable Ready School Safe Learners Resiliency Framework guidelines, and our district policies and student body handbooks. La Grande School District and its employees are required to enforce the current mandate. Every district employee will continue to do so, regardless of their personal feelings on the issue.
OHA and ODE have communicated that the mask mandate will terminate no later than March 31, 2022. LGSD is fully making plans to shift towards making masks optional. We are now actively advocating shortening this timeline based on hospitalization rates, county COVID rates, and school impact. In short, we are asking to allow schools to make a local decision prior to the March 31, 2022 date. We look forward to more information from the state on this issue as we wish to make it a local control option before March 31.
We encourage students to participate in civic processes and to make their voices heard. However, district and school officials are in no position to remove this mandate. We encourage all interested parties with opinions on this matter to contact local and state representatives and let your voice be heard by those with the power to make the changes you desire, and not to take any action that will threaten our ability to continue to hold in-person school, extracurricular activities, and all of the other things that have made this school year such an improvement over the last.
For those interested, contact information for those representatives is below:
· U.S. Representative Cliff Bentz: https://bentz.house.gov/contac…
· State Senator Bill Hansell: Sen.Bill.Hansell@oregonlegislature.gov
· State Representative Bobby Levy: rep.BobbyLevy@oregonlegislature.gov
· Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill: email@example.com
· Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen: Patrick.Allen@dhsoha.state.or.us
· Governor Kate Brown’s Office Contact Form: https://www.oregon.gov/gov/pages/share-youropinion.aspx
We urge each of you to have these conversations in your homes and with your friends and family members. We need your help to keep our schools open.
For more information from ODE go to: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/ORED/bulletins/3098eb4
For more information from OHA go to: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/ORDHS/bulletins/3098e7d