Sarah Gillispie’s son Kellian has autism, and for him, wearing a mask in school makes learning and socializing much more difficult.
“I feel that it was also hard to make friends for him,” Gillispie said. “You know, interact with his peers socially.”
Lucky for Kellian, that will no longer be a problem.
The Redmond School District has announced its plan to combat COVID-19 this upcoming school year, and masks will not be required in classrooms.
“Now that our state is opening up, it makes sense to keep the mask protocol similar to when you’re out in the public,” said Sheila Miller of the Redmond School District.
But why not require masks for younger grades, for those who are not even eligible for a COVID vaccine?
Miller says it is a logistical issue.
“There are kids who are in 5th grade who are old enough to get vaccinated, and there are kids who are in 6th grade who maybe aren’t because they skipped a year,” Miller said. “It’s just really complicated, so frankly, we just thought it would be better to leave up to a family decision.”
Not everything will change.
Some social distancing will continue to be in place, as well as increased sanitation.
Masks will also be required on Redmond school buses per federal mandate.
“If we don’t have to wear them in class,” Gillispie said. “It doesn’t really make a lot of sense to have to wear them on the bus.”
Burt Lauray has two granddaughters in the Bend-La Pine School District, and he hopes they will have the same options as students in Redmond.
“They have the same living conditions, school conditions, same as Bend,” Lauray said. “So they should be about the same requirements.”
His granddaughters, Ayva and Addy, say they would be thrilled to finally go to school without a mask.
“I just really hope we don’t have to wear a mask next year,” Avya said. “It’ll just make school 100 times better.”
It’s a long-awaited change for students, teachers, and parents alike.
“I guess I’m just excited to see how all the kids do socially,” Gillispie said. “And how it affects their learning as well.”
Redmond students and staff who would rather wear masks will be welcome to do so, and distance learning options will remain available.
The school district cautions families that requirements could change if, for example, case counts jump or new mandates are introduced.