Dear Parents and Community,
HERE WE GO AGAIN. This Covid ride just keeps on rolling, but not even the threat of the pandemic can prevent the power of the Alsea School Spirit. As most of you know today, Governor Brown has expanded her mask mandate to all public indoor spaces, as a means of slowing the spread of the Delta Covid variant. Regardless of anyone’s personal perspective and/or position on the efficacy of masks, the Governor has the legal authority to implement this mandate.
For us here in schools, this is not the news we were hoping to hear as the new school year draws near. I really appreciate the large number of parents and patrons who have reached out to me directly regarding the use of masks in schools, and for sharing all your concerns/sentiments, some in support and many more against. The most common question that has come up is, “Will my child have the option to not wear a mask?”
On its face, the Governor’s order Does Not allow for students to “Elect” to not wear a mask, and the Oregon Department of Education is requiring school staff to enforce this mandate under penalty of fine, investigation, ethics violation, and potential loss of licensure.
As a Superintendent, I work hard to know the law and comply with it, and if possible, make it work for students, parents, staff, and our valued families. This particular mandate is outlined in Rule (executive order law) as OAR 333-019-1015 (full copy of this rule is pasted below this letter). As you will note upon reading this rule, section (6) states: “Nothing in this rule is intended to prohibit a school from complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.” Under ADA, anyone may request a section 504 plan accommodation regarding school/workplace requirements. Section 504 is a Federal Law that requires employers and schools to “Accommodate” students and staff who may have a physical, social-emotional, or plenary need that of itself does not qualify as a “disability” under IDEA (Special Education Law). As an ethical Superintendent, I would be remiss if I did not communicate this federally mandated right to all our parents/guardians, and inform them of their option to request an accommodation regarding the mask mandate for their student.
The Alsea Charter School has consistently met all our families where they are at, and worked to build strong partnerships buttressed by high levels of trust, care, and compassion. I see the Section 504 option as a lawful and compliant means for accommodating parents, and students who have deeply held concerns about the potential negative impacts of mask wearing at school.
Engaging this pathway will require the student and parent(s) to replace the single mitigation of mask wearing with other mitigations that off-set the risk of COVID Spread via a “layered mitigation approach.” Included in this email is a link to a google form that I am asking all parents to fill out. In the form it will ask you if you are OK with your student(s) wearing a mask during regular school hours or not. If you answer yes the form will document your answer and help us support your student with effective mask use during school hours. If you answer NO you will have the opportunity to request a Section 504 Accommodation Plan. There will be a series of questions to answer including potential replacement mitigations you are comfortable supporting. We will then assist your student by enforcing these new mitigation’s for your student during regular school hours.
Please use the link below to access your survey:
NOTICE: You must request a 504 plan if you do not want your student to wear a mask at school. Students who do not have a plan in place will be required to wear a mask at school and may be subject to enforcement measures up-to and including revocation of in-person school attendance, as mandated by Governor Brown, OHA, and the Oregon Department of Education. Everyone has the right to access the 504 plan process under ADA for a myriad of reasons, both medical and non-medical, so please engage with us if you feel strongly that mandated mask wearing prevents your student from appropriately accessing their educational potential/experience.
Finally, I want to apologize for the complexity and very poor timing of Governor Brown’s Mandates. The Alsea School District recognizes the severity of the threat the Delta Covid virus poses, and as we proved last year, we will do everything possible to keep our students and staff safe while simultaneously respecting peoples rights. We believe the 504 plan and Google Form process will help us comply with the law, accommodate the diversity of needs, feelings, and perspectives regarding the efficacy of Mask use in schools, as well as maintain a warm, safe, school learning environment during difficult times.
As always please feel free to contact me directly, anytime, on my cell via phone or text at 509-220-5313, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
We highly value all our students, parents, and families and we are looking forward to seeing everyone back in person on the 23rd. Go Wolverines!!!!
Alsea Superintendent/K-12 Principal
541-487-4305 Ext. 201
Oregon Health Authority
Masking Requirements in Schools
(1) The Oregon Health Authority has the authority to adopt rules to prescribe measures and methods for controlling reportable diseases, including COVID-19. Children are required to attend school, which is a congregate setting where COVID-19 can spread easily if precautions are not taken. Two of the most important tools the state has to control COVID-19 are vaccination and masking. However, currently children under the age of 12 are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use. In order to protect students under age 12, individuals who are not vaccinated, and those with underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to complications from COVID-19, as well as to minimize the disruption of student education in schools because of exposure to a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, requiring universal use of masks inside schools is necessary.
(2) For purposes of this rule the following definitions apply:
(a) “COVID-19” means a disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
(b) “Face shield” means a clear plastic shield that covers the forehead, extends below the chin, and wraps around the sides of the face.
(c) “Mask” means a cloth, polypropylene, paper or other face covering that covers the nose and the mouth and that rests snugly above the nose, below the mouth, and on the sides of the face.
(d) “School” means a public, private, parochial, charter or alternative educational program offering kindergarten through grade 12 or any part thereof.
(3) Schools must ensure that all individuals, including but not limited to staff, students, contractors and visitors wear a mask, except as provided in sections (4) and (5) of this rule, when in an indoor setting:
(a) At school during regular school hours;
(b) Engaged in educational activities such as field trips or off-campus classes during regular school hours; and
(c) At school engaged in educational activities outside of regular school hours.
(4) A face shield may be worn instead of a mask if an individual cannot wear a mask for medical reasons.
(5) An individual is not required to wear a mask under section (3) of this rule if the individual is:
(a) Actively eating or drinking.
(c) Playing a musical instrument that requires using the mouth.
(d) Engaged in a sport during physical education class such as swimming, other water sports, or a sport where wearing a mask could be a strangulation hazard such as gymnastics or wrestling.
(e) Alone in a private office enclosed by walls on all sides with a door that is closed.
(f) Is under the age of two.
(6) Nothing in this rule is intended to prohibit a school from complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
(7) A school that violates this rule on or after August 12, 2021 is subject to a civil penalty of $500 per day per violation.
(8) This rule is effective on August 2, 2021.
(9) The Oregon Health Authority will review the continued need for this rule on a monthly basis, based on scientific information related to the spread and control of COVID-19.
Statutory/Other Authority: ORS 413.042, ORS 431.110, ORS 431A.010 & ORS 433.004
Statutes/Other Implemented: ORS 431.110, ORS 431A.010 & ORS 433.004
PH 33-2021, temporary adopt filed 08/02/2021, effective 08/02/2021 through 01/28/2022