▶️ BLS parents plead for answers from district; no mask requirements announced

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In just a few weeks, kids will be back in the classroom.

While some Central Oregon school districts have made decisions regarding mask requirements, others have yet to do so.

Including the Bend-La Pine Schools.

Emotions were running high at Tuesday’s Bend-La Pine School Board meeting with masks being a main topic of discussion.

“If masks aren’t in place, there will potentially be a lot of quarantines,” Amy Tatom, a school board member said. “And a lot of people missing out on access to in-person education.”

This week, the Redmond School District announced it will not require masks next school year.

Redmond Schools forego mask requirement inside school buildings

Bend-La Pine Schools is still discussing its plan.

“Our kind of immediate need is to make sure that our summer school plans are well in place,” Superintendent Dr. Steve Cook said.

Wendy Imel is a working mother of two who feels families should be given the choice to mask up.

She wants the school district to make a decision soon, so parents have time to prepare.

“You know we’ve been asking the district for weeks, what do we have to expect for our children going back to school? We need to prepare ourselves, as well as our children, and we need to be able to make informed decisions,” Imel said. “That means we need to have their transparency.”

Almost 30 local medical professionals signed a letter to the Bend-La Pine School Board suggesting elementary students should continue to wear masks until they are eligible to receive a COVID vaccine.

Letter to Bend-La Pine School Board re_ Masking for 2021-22 school year

Dr. Suzanne Mendez, pediatric medical director at St. Charles, organized the letter.

“It’s better to start out with the most protective method rather than have to reel back and put masks on later,” Mendez said. “It’s better to prevent these cases while we can.”

Imel is concerned for students who learn better without masks.

“You know there are autistic children, in a whole variety of spectrum, where students need to see your face to communicate,” Imel said. “When I think about those demographics, that’s when I think one size doesn’t fit all.”

No answers just yet as parents, students, and even medical professionals wait to hear what this school year holds.

“Those conversations are going to take some time,” Cook said.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Cook mentioned the district would talk with Deschutes County Public Health on Wednesday.

Central Oregon Daily News reached out to Bend La-Pine Schools for an update and did not receive a response.

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