Yesterday, the Oregon Health Authority announced that, effective March 31st, the state of Oregon will be lifting the mask mandate for schools.
We all hope that by the end of March, COVID rates will have dropped significantly and our communities will feel safe being in closed spaces with one another or with a classroom of students. However, we have seen time and time again how uncertain predictions about COVID can be.
We started this school year negotiating our Covid Safety Letter of Agreement with the District. That agreement is for the entire 2021-22 school year. Among other mitigations, our agreement states that students are required to wear masks (sections 3, 11.j, and 13.e). Our LOA remains in full effect unless we jointly agree otherwise. If any state agency orders a change that impacts our agreement, we would meet with the District to discuss the impact.
In the coming weeks, we plan to survey members, so that any potential changes to our agreement are driven by member voice. We will always advocate that school safety standards are driven by science.
I also wanted to share this statement from the Oregon Department of Education, sent yesterday. It clarifies that schools and school districts “may continue to require students, staff, volunteers, and/or visitors to wear face coverings during indoor or outdoor activities, similar to other COVID-19 mitigation protocols such as physical distancing, and airflow/ventilation.”
It also clarifies that if schools do not ensure universal masking, other protocols meant to keep students and staff in-person will no longer apply:
- Without universal masking, schools will return to using the general exposure definition: Having been within 6 feet of a confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 case for 15 minutes or more within one day.
- Without universal masking, schools will not be able to use the Test to Stay Protocol to allow students and staff to attend school during a quarantine period. Universal use of face coverings remains a prerequisite for the Test to Stay Protocol.
- Without universal masking, schools will be required to do contact tracing for all school settings.
Please be on the lookout for a short survey in the coming weeks. Thank you for all you do everyday to keep your students, your colleagues, and our community safe.