The Redmond School Board Wednesday approved a resolution to create a plan that will make masks optional for students and staff by March 2nd.
“So our school board has written up a resolution that would essentially put the decisions on wearing masks and face shields,” said district spokeswoman Sheila Miller.
According to the resolution, the school board will direct the superintendent and administration to implement a new “omicron COVID plan.”
“As a result of this resolution, Redmond School District administrators will work on a plan regarding this directive, and will communicate the details of that plan with families and staff,” according to a release from the district. “In the meantime, masks will continue to be required in all of our schools and on our school buses, as will all other COVID mitigation measures, including social distancing and quarantining.”
The 4-1 decision defies the current state mandate which requires masks to be worn in schools until March 31st.
The board modified the resolution after a lengthy and contentious discussion. It initially called for the implementation to begin next week.
The school board has been staunch opponents to the mask mandates from the beginning – even drafting a letter to the governor and OHA asking them to remove the mandate.
“We’re telling OHA, ODE and the governor, we have waited, we have been patient, we have done our due diligence, we have followed your guidelines and you have failed us every time and you have lied to us,” she said.
During the special board meeting Wednesday, board member Liz Goodrich called the resolution “rushed” and “poorly constructed.”
She asked why move forward with the resolution now when the state had already set a date for masks to become optional in schools.
Board Chairwoman Shawn Hartfield said the March 31st date seemed arbitrary and was later than every other state, so why not move forward with the plan earlier.
Goodrich also pointed out no public health official were consulted in drafting the resolution, but Alsea School District Superintendent Marc Thielman spoke to board members during the meeting.
It’s had state funded held back because of the decision.
Board Vice Chairman Michael Summers said the resolution is meant to be generalized but “this puts government back in their lane.”
He repeatedly said he opposed the idea of the government continuing to tell him what’s best for himself and his children.
Hartfield, Summers, Keri Lopez and Jill Cummings were the four “yes” votes.
Goodrich was the lone “no” vote.
In the resolution, the school board cited continued misinformation about COVID and said “Governor brown’s mask mandates discriminated and marginalized parents and students desiring to make their own medical decisions.”
Miller said the district would also need to take into consideration its teachers and their comfort in a mask-less setting.
“I think it potentially puts our staff and administrators in a difficult position,” Miller said.
The school board eliminated a section of the plan that instructed staff and teachers not infringe on student mask wearing, because it demands staff break state law.
Superintendent Charan Cline bargained for the March 2nd date over the original plan of February 22nd, due to the need to provide the teachers union with a 14 day “heads-up” regarding the new plans.
We reached out to the Redmond Educators Association for comment prior to the meeting, and did not hear back.
“We know that many families would be happy if this resolution were to pass but we also know many families would have concerns about their students’ health and safety,” Miller said.
Rachel Gregori, moved her first-grade son with underlying conditions from Redmond to Bend-La Pine Schools because of the original debate over masks in Redmond schools.
“And a lot of parents had issues with their kids wearing masks,” Gregori said.
She said that she’s on the fence about the topic, given how much COVID has spread through the community recently.
“I feel a lot more comfortable knowing that parents won’t be outside of my son’s school with flyers and trying to protest the masks,” Gregori said.