Redmond School District officials on Thursday said they were put in a “difficult position” after the school board voted to make masks optional early next month – weeks before the state’s indoor mask mandate is set to end.
A resolution, approved 4 to 1 during an emergency meeting Wednesday night, requires the school district to have a plan for eliminating the mask policy by March 2nd.
“This new board resolution does put our district administrators and staff in a difficult position because it does ask us to break state law and state guidance,” said Sheila Miller, the district’s Public Information Officer.
At the board meeting, tensions ran high.
“I don’t think the board should be putting forth a resolution that is not factually correct,” said board member Liz Goodrich.
The resolution included several statements opposing the mask mandate, the government’s perceived overreach and a reference to an increase in teen suicide – a point board vice-chairman Michael Summers referenced during the meeting.
“Whatever legal recourse or downsides or frustrations that we cause in the district, those fines we can occur; those are all better solutions to me than another suicide,” Summers said during the meeting.
“I don’t know where Michael Summers got his information,” Miller said, “Unfortunately in the resolution, none of the facts are cited.”
“I believe these are true, and that’s the problem with ‘your truth,'” Summers said during the meeting.
For teachers, the new resolution could put them in danger of losing their state teaching license.
The new resolution also considered a change to working conditions, which requires an option to bargain with teacher’s union.
“It’s not about masks or no masks. The issue is the school board is asking us to violate state law,” said Barry Branaugh, a representative for the Redmond Educators Association.
“And it makes us eligible to lose some state funding, it could open us up to fines, it could open us up to other sanctions,” Miller said.
We reached out to Summers and board chairwoman Shawn Hartfield for a response on camera.
Instead, they issued this statement:
“The Redmond School Board voted last night to take back local control. The board has spent months working with OHA and ODE in belief that these agencies would follow through with the promises they made to restore local control. It is apparent by the actions of OHA and their passing of a permanent mask mandate that OHA has no intention of restoring local control in a timely manner. We look forward to moving ahead working with our teachers, staff and parents to create a roadmap enabling student achievement without the distraction of Salem’s politics. We passed this resolution to bring our community together with mutual respect for our individual liberties.”
Meanwhile, the district office is scrambling to abide by the board’s wishes.
“So, we’re going to work with state leaders from the Department of Education and the Health Authority to see if there’s anyway we can stay in compliance while also honoring this resolution,” Miller said.
The Redmond School District said there is a possibility they will say ‘no’ to the school board’s new resolution.
However, they hope to reach a conclusion that is amicable for everyone.