MASD going mask-optional March 14

March 2022 Posted in School, Your Health

By Stephen Floyd

The Mt. Angel School District plans to go mask-optional March 14 after state regulators changed a deadline the district expected to fall at the end of the month.

Oregon lifted its mandate on masks in public school buildings March 12, however MASD had made plans to carefully craft policy changes up to the state’s original deadline of March 31.

Despite being caught off guard, the district used guidance from state regulators and local community feedback to shift away from stricter COVID-19 precautions, though some safety measures remain.

Superintendent Rachel Stucky said, each person’s choice should be respected.

“We’re spending a lot of time talking about respect and tolerance of other individuals and their choices,” said Stucky. “It’s one’s own personal business why they might choose to wear a mask or not wear a mask.”

The Oregon Health Authority announced last month it would lift the statewide mask mandate for schools March 31 as infections and hospitalizations for COVID-19 declined. Districts began crafting plans to transition away from the mandate, with the burden for COVID-19 policies and enforcement falling on district boards.

While neighboring boards at the Silver Falls and North Santiam school districts were eager to go mask-optional, Stucky encouraged her board to take a more measured approach.

During the board’s Feb. 14 meeting, Stucky said the district would need all the six weeks before the deadline to carefully consider important factors such as community and faculty input, guidance from OHA and the Oregon Department of Education, and the impacts of losing such resources as test-to-stay. When the state announced Feb. 28 the new deadline was March 12, Stucky said she was surprised, but prepared to take action.

A survey of the community had been conducted by that time and revealed 90 percent of respondents favored going mask-optional, and 85 percent of respondents in a teacher survey agreed. With these results in hand, and recommendations from the state, district administrators began crafting policies to respond to the lifting of the mandate.

As of March 14, masks will be “encouraged and welcomed, but are optional,” said Stucky in a March 9 letter to district residents. Other guidelines included:

Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 will need to isolate at home for five days from the start of symptoms or from the day they test positive.

Those exposed to COVID-19 are encouraged to remain home but are not required to quarantine.

COVID-19 testing will be available to students and staff who show signs of illness.

“The pandemic really removed a certain aspect of joy from the educational experience and I’m really looking forward to recapturing that in the students and the staff and the families that we really haven’t seen in two years,” Stucky said.

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