The Redmond School Board decided Wednesday it would not pursue legal action against the state over COVID-19 mask and vaccination rules.
“We can put some of this behind us and move forward with getting back to the work of educating our kids and supporting our staff,” said board member Liz Goodrich.
The board came to the decision during a special meeting Wednesday night. There was no vote.
Instead, the board voted unanimously to draft a letter to the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education, looking for parameters and guidance on when to retain local control.
“My thought in pursuing legal action was not to create chaos or to be anti, but was to create options to our existing staff members who are on the fence, who had not filled out an exemption or acceptation,” said board vice chairman Michael Summers.
Summers said he was worried about the potential high number of staff the district would lose at the vaccination mandate deadline, but it appears now that number has become significantly lower.
District officials on Tuesday told Central Oregon Daily News about 20 of its 940 staff members haven’t yet provided proof of vaccination or a religious or medical exemption.
If any staff members don’t comply by Oct. 18, they’ll be placed on paid administrative leave effective on Oct. 19 until final personnel action is taken.
The district must comply with all the requirements of due process in the collective bargaining agreement. Those who don’t comply with the mandate will not be allowed to work for the district.
They also have a small number of athletic coaches who have not yet complied, which may produce the need for small operational adjustments.
“My motivation in my mind was always to keep the school going and to find a path to help continue the district to be in-person and not have to go back to online,” Summers said.
Just before summer break ended, the school board approved a resolution calling for local control on mask and vaccination rules and said it planned to consider all avenues – even legal action against the state.
In a special school board meeting October 5, board members voted 4-1 to hire Thenell Law Group, a Portland-based law firm that specializes in insurance-related cases.
The board met with attorney Dan Thenell on Tuesday during an executive session to discuss potential litigation.
According to a fee agreement with the law firm, the district paid a $5,000 retainer fee and planned to pay attorney fees of up to $350/hour.
Last month, Redmond Superintendent Charan Cline moved to have a Terrebonne fourth-grade teacher fired for not following the mask rules.
The school board voted against the termination, putting the long-time educator on paid administrative leave while it considered next steps.