The Redmond School Board will vote on a resolution later this month to ignore a new state mask mandate and make face coverings optional when classes resume this fall.
Board member Michael Summers proposed the resolution that read, in part, “the school board, Redmond School District will not compel its staff, administration or students to use masks, face coverings, or other unlawful restraints.”
The board voted, 4-1, to allow Summers to work with board chairwoman Shawn Hartfield to work on the resolution and present it for a vote at the next board meeting on August 25.
The decision was met with cheers and approval from most of the crowd in the Redmond High School auditorium.
Before the vote, the board meeting featured several parents venting frustrations over the new mask mandates.
“At what point do people take back their parental rights for the health and wellbeing of their children?” one mom said.
“The Governor has no authority today to issue these mandates…she’s not following the law,” commenter Scott Stuart said.
The board heard from commenters and from experts such as Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill, and Nahad Sadr-Azodi of Deschutes County Public Health, about the latest data supporting mask-wearing.
“We believe to meet our goal to have our students attending school every day in-person, we need to keep every individual student healthy,” Gill said.
They also heard from Attorney Greg Colvin, who spoke about the massive fines awaiting schools who push back against restrictions, which can span up to $126,749 for willful negligence.
The guest speaker earning arguably the most applause was school counselor Kris Davis, who shared about the negative toll on his students’ mental health when masks were required last year.
“This past year was the hardest year I’ve ever experienced in my 25 year career,” he said, “When in school before the pandemic shutdown, we as educators were able to interact and intervene with students that need help.
“We were able to tell by their facial expressions if something was bothering them. We were able then to send those students to a caring adult to support their needs.
“Now, post-shutdown, that interaction is silent.”
Parents, teachers, and even young students stepped forward to share their thoughts during public comment.
Earlier in the day, Gov. Kate Brown made official a new statewide mask mandate beginning Friday.
All Oregonians 5 and older will be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces.
Everyone 2 and older will be required to mask up on public transportation.
Some local school districts initially balked at the new mandates and said they planned to challenge them.
But COVID cases continue to climb across the region and at least one of those districts, Crook County, has backtracked.
Officials say it plans to comply saying they do not want to put the district in legal or financial jeopardy.
On Tuesday, a large crowd of parents and community members showed up at a contentious Bend-La Pine School Board meeting to voice their opposition to masks in class this fall.
But ultimately the board approved the superintendent’s recommendation that they move forward with requiring masks indoors for all students and staff.