ODE, OHA ‘strongly advise’ unvaccinated students, staff wear masks this fall


The Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority on Thursday said they “still strongly advise” unvaccinated students and staff wear masks indoors this fall when school resumes across the state.

But the education department maintains that it will empower districts to make their own decisions regarding COVID-19 protocols for the coming school year.

The language was among several updates to the “Resiliency Framework” the education department revealed in late June.

Bend-La Pine Schools still hasn’t announced whether it will require masks when students return this fall.

Officials have said they were looking for guidance from local and state health leaders and expected to make a decision on August 10th.

The Redmond School District, however, announced earlier this month that it will not require masks.

And Thursday’s announcement from the ODE won’t change that, said Superintendent Charan Cline.

“While the Redmond School District is not requiring masks, in accordance with the Oregon Health Authority we strongly encourage anyone who would like to wear one to do so, and recommend them for those not yet vaccinated,” he said.

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Should students be required to wear masks this fall?
Should students be required to wear masks this fall?
Should students be required to wear masks this fall?

In Jefferson County, district spokesman Joseph Prechtl said they expected to make a decision next week.

“The district is going over the latest guidance from ODE just released today,” he said in an email. “At this time, no decision has been made if masks will be required or not.”

The Crook County School District on Thursday issued its plan for the 2021-22 school year and will not require masks for students or staff.

Masks still will be required on school buses statewide, per guidelines from the CDC.

The ODE also announced relaxed guidance on quarantining in line with the CDC.

Those who are fully vaccinated and don’t have COVID symptoms won’t need to quarantine or get tested after exposure to someone diagnosed with COVID.

This will allow more kids to remain in class or continue with sports and extracurricular activities after potential exposure.

But since children under 12 can’t yet get vaccinated, the guidance really only applies to middle and high schoolers who have been vaccinated.

COVID exposures at the elementary school level could still force class quarantines and a temporary return to online learning.

This is a developing story.

The updates to the Resiliency Framework as of July 22, 2021 are identified by green text in the document itself and include:

  • Acknowledgement that K-12 schools will vary when it comes to the number of students and staff fully vaccinated. Elementary schools primarily serve children under 12 years of age who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine at this time. Some schools may have a low percentage of students and staff fully vaccinated despite vaccine eligibility. These variations necessitate that K-12 administrators make decisions about the use of COVID-19 prevention strategies in their schools to protect people who are not fully vaccinated (Page 4).
  • Alignment to CDC guidance which states that people who are fully vaccinated and do not have COVID-19 symptoms do not need to quarantine or get tested after exposure to someone with COVID-19. This protects the student’s access to in-person learning, sports, and extracurricular activities. People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or 2 weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine (Page 12).
  • The CDC’s order for mandatory use of face coverings for passengers and drivers on public transit applies to school buses. This order remains in effect until lifted by the federal government and cannot be waived by state or local authorities (Page 6).
  • Clarification that maintaining physical distancing should not prevent return to full-time, in-person instruction for all students. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet between students, school leaders are reminded of the importance of layering multiple other prevention strategies, such as face coverings, indoors (Page 14).
  • In grades kindergarten and up, OHA and ODE still strongly advise face coverings for all staff and students who are unvaccinated while indoors. Certain accommodations for medical needs or disability may be necessary (Page 13).
  • Information about how school districts submit an Operational Plan/Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan via Smartsheet. These plans must be submitted to ODE by Monday, August 23, 2021 to fulfill the requirements of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) State plan and the State Board of Education. The Smartsheet link, tools and directions will be shared later today. Information for public charter schools will be shared next week (Page 7).
  • Details about COVID-19 Testing in Schools, a program sponsored by OHA. OHA continues to offer a diagnostic testing program for schools, and has added a screening program for schools that may be interested (Pages 18-19).
  • communications toolkit with resources to help school and district leaders communicate to students, staff and families (Page 19).

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