Redmond School Board demands update on mask policy review from Brown, OHA


The Redmond School Board has sent a letter to the OHA and Gov. Kate Brown calling for more information on how they’re reviewing current mask requirements and “clear information on when we can expect local decision making to return.”

In the letter, board members remind Brown and Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen that they promised to review the mask requirement in schools on a monthly basis to determine if it needed to continue.

“Since then, OHA has never provided any evidence of its monthly review, nor has it provided any information to the public about what, if any, guidelines it would use to determine when masks were no longer required in K-12 schools and when districts could expect local decision-making to return,” the letter reads. “The Redmond School District Board of Directors is asking OHA to immediately provide school districts and boards with a clear explanation of what its reviews look like, when they are held, and what information is considered in continuing the statewide school mask mandate.”

In mid-July, the Oregon Department of Education issued a statement strongly advising school districts to require unvaccinated students to wear masks in the classroom.

Officials said then they wanted to empower local districts to make their own decisions on face-covering guidelines.

But just a week later as COVID cases skyrocketed, Brown directed state health and education agencies to create a new rule requiring them.

There was immediate push back in Central Oregon, especially from smaller school districts in counties where COVID cases weren’t spiking.

The Redmond School Board was firmly against the mask policy as school started this fall, going as far as considering a lawsuit against the state.

Ultimately, the district conceded to the mask rules, saying they simply wanted to make a point and urge the state to give back local control on the issue.

“For going on two years now, our schools have been disrupted by this virus. We understand its dangers, and we respect that districts must take precautions to keep our students and staff safe,” the letter reads. However, here in Redmond as in other parts of the state, there is a great deal of COVID fatigue. We need hope, a light at the end of the tunnel — and more than that, we need some guidance from the state leaders who have put these restrictions in place.”

The board said it wants to know what COVID metrics the county needs to meet to lift the mask mandate.

In a statement, the OHA told Central Oregon Daily News it planned to issue a formal response to the school district by Friday.

But Rudy Owens, the public information officer for the OHA, reiterated the CDC’s position on masks in schools.

“Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant that has driven a surge in cases in the country (and in Oregon), CDC continues to recommend universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status,” he said.

You can read the full letter below.

Letter to OHA and Governor Brown

Top Local Stories