Bend-La Pine leader recommends masks for all this fall

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Aligning with a new state mandate for K-12 schools, the Bend-La Pine Schools superintendent will recommend all students and staff wear masks indoors when they return to class this fall.

Dr. Steven Cook will make the recommendation Tuesday during a much-anticipated school board meeting.

It is pending school board approval.

Cook’s “operational plan” for the 2021-22 school year, says “students able, but unwilling to wear a face-covering indoors, during the school day, will be denied entry and provided a free public education through Bend-La Pine Schools Online.”

According to the OHA, schools that violate the state’s mask mandate are subject to a civil penalty of $500 per day, per violation.

Teachers who violate the rule face additional penalties – including loss of license.

The plan for the new school year highlights that the OHA/ODE mask mandate is a temporary new rule and the agencies aim to return decision making to the local level.

But the district will recommend masks remain required until a COVID vaccine becomes readily available for children under 12.

You can see the school board’s agenda and
superintendent’s recommendation here.

Masks would be required for the district’s 18,000 students indoors except for when they are eating or playing instruments, according to the recommendation.

If the board approves the recommendation, it will ruffle the feathers of a growing group of parents who oppose the mask mandate for their kids. 

The ODE’s new rule took effect on August 2nd, with the agency saying “quite simply, face coverings mean more days in school for more students.”

The agency has been adamant that the only way for schools to return to full-time, in-person instruction right now is with everyone wearing masks.

After the ODE’s announcement, Bend-La Pine quickly alerted parents that masks would be required indoors for summer school sessions, which began last week.

But other Central Oregon school districts still plan to push back against the mandate.

Superintendents in Crook County, Jefferson County, and Culver have said they will do what they can to retain local control over the issue.

And in Redmond, the school board has asked its attorney and insurance company to talk them through the possible consequences of making masks optional this fall.

That meeting is set for Wednesday night at the Redmond High School gym.

Bend-La Pine’s board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday night at 5:30 in the Bend High gym.

This is a developing story. 

K-12 mask mandate now official; Jefferson Co. leader calls it an ‘over-reach’

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