More Info On Oregon Schools Mask Mandate

The superintendent of the Alsea School District announced Friday that parents could decide whether or not their children wear masks while at school, effective Monday. The determinant authority regarding the need to wear a mask will be returned to individual parents, staff, and students. This means parents must decide if they wish for their child to be masked when at school, both inside or outside. If you decide that you want your child to wear a mask they will be fully supported, to include provision of masks free of charge by the Alsea School District.

Alsea Superintendent Marc Thielman, a republican running for governor, announced on January 21, that the school board unanimously approved the resolution “which declares an ‘effective return of local Health and Safety Decision-Making’ commensurate with Governor Brown’s June 25, 2021 recovery order,” Thielman said.

“As you all know, Omicron is reaching its peak in our school/communities, and currently it has created the perfect storm between staff positive cases, quarantine needs due to some one in the household being positive, as well as many Preschool and Daycare closures necessitating too many staff absences for us to safely operate school tomorrow,” Thielman wrote Sunday. “Based on our data, we will not have enough staff to safely operate until this Wednesday.”

“The determinant authority regarding the need to wear a mask will be returned to individual parents, staff, and students,” Thielman wrote to parents Friday. “The right of any student, staff, or person to individually choose to mask WILL BE RESPECTED. There will be zero tolerance for any mask shaming moving forward. Omicron is still prevalent and each individual must make their own decision as how to best manage their perceived risks based on their own assessment (…) Other mitigations will continue unchanged to include daily sanitation, social distancing, hand washing, lunch protocols, etc.”

Classes have since been canceled Monday – and again Tuesday – because too many staff members are out sick to open the schools. Masks will not be optional on school buses, he noted, because of a federal maks mandate for public transit. Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill sent a letter to Thielman on Tuesday explaining the state will withhold federal COVID relief funding until the district puts the mask mandate back in place.

“The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER I, II & III) funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) the American Rescue Plan (ARP) requires school districts to comply with all state laws and regulations,” Gill said in the letter. Gill continued “due to the posted statement of willful noncompliance, ODE will not process any reimbursement requests for ESSER I, II and III eligible expenditures for Alsea School District at this time.”