A Redmond School Board resolution that calls for a return of local control on COVID safety precautions won’t change the mask or vaccination rules for students and staff this fall when classes resume.
Everyone will be required to wear masks while inside and teachers will still be required to get vaccinated by Oct. 18th.
That from a letter Superintendent Charan Cline sent to Redmond School District families on Thursday morning.
“While the board will consider legal and other action to regain that local control, it made clear that in the meantime, the Redmond School District will continue to follow all mandates from the state,” Cline wrote.
In an interview with Central Oregon Daily News on Thursday, Cline said he believed the board was responding to community input.
“I think the school board is trying to channel community anger into a productive path forward,” he said. “The school district in itself will continue to follow the law, and will be installing health and safety regulations the OHA has demanded.”
Students and staff are currently required to wear masks in the district’s summer school program as well.
The resolution, drafted by board member Michael Summers and Chairwoman Shawn Hartfield, said the new mandates are opposed by a “significant” segment of the district and “present significant operational challenges for the district, including the potential loss of students and staff who oppose the mandates.”
According to the resolution, which passed 3-2, the district fears the mask and vaccination requirements will create staff shortages that could impact its ability to offer full-time, in-person instruction.
During a lengthy board meeting Wednesday night, the panel acknowledged the resolution held little water as far as allowing the district to defy the state mandates.
Board member Michael Summers said it was meant to be “a formal protest” against the mandates and governor pulling local control from Oregon school districts.
“I didn’t bring this forward to create chaos,” he said Wednesday night. “Our intent is not to just roll over.”
Cline said he knows many parents and students in the district won’t be happy with the news masks must be worn.
“Please remember that teachers, staff and principals at your schools are not responsible for this mask mandate, and we ask that you treat them with respect and understanding,” he said. “If you or your child are unwilling to comply with this mask mandate, please look for a communication coming soon with more information about our online learning program, RSDFlex.”
In an interview, Cline said he hoped the community could “reframe this conversation” about masks.
“I grew up in construction and I was required to wear a hard hat and a mask sometimes depending on the work that I was doing,” he said. “I wish people could think of this simply as safety gear for the price of doing business right now, and then when we don’t need it anymore we’ll take it off.”