North Santiam School District
August 3, 2021
Message from the Superintendent
NSSD Families and Staff,
By now, you are likely aware last Thursday Governor Brown issued a statement indicating that masks would be required indoors during the upcoming school year. Yesterday, Superintendents from around the state met on-line with representatives of the Oregon Department of Education, the Oregon Health Authority, the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators and the Oregon School Boards Association. In the meeting, some of the details included in the mandate were shared, as well as the reasons for the mandate.
The Oregon Health Authority presented information in the meeting which explained the Governor’s decision. In just four weeks, the COVID Delta Variant has increased from causing 5% of Oregon’s cases to over 85% of cases. These same four weeks have seen an increase in Oregon’s total cases. The Delta Variant has been estimated to be 2-3 times more communicable than previous variants, although increases in severity has not been seen. Previous increases in cases have been “flattened” through changes in behavior, as well as vaccinations. We encourage families and staff to continue to be mindful of handwashing, spacing in public, and to consider vaccinations if you have not yet received them.
The District’s primary goal for the 2021-22 school year has been to have in-person school, five days per week for the full school year. Following the mandate, we believe this to be attainable still. We deeply feel the fatigue and frustration parents are experiencing; more important, we understand the urgency our parents feel as they see another school year threatened. Our three operating beliefs throughout COVID have been 1) we believe students are healthiest and learn best when in school in-person; 2) our first duty is the safety of all staff, students and families; and 3) we want to plan to conduct school in a sustainable manner without disruption due to outbreaks.
Parents will recall a District Communication in July notified parents masks would be optional. With the new announcement, we no longer have that authority. The District intends to follow the law in this matter, but we will continue to advocate for more local control. It was made clear during the meeting the mandate will be monitored by the Oregon Health Authority monthly and could be lifted as conditions change.
Specifics of the Mask Requirement:
- Masks will be required indoors for all individuals within the school day.
- Athletics will continue to have safety requirements. More details will be communicated as we receive them.
- Some academic activities such as band will not have a mask requirement while playing the instruments. More specific information will be communicated as we receive it.
- In all areas of school, such as meal service and playgrounds, we will receive more information. We will continue to communicate in each area as we learn more.
- Masks have been required on airplanes and buses (including school buses) by Federal action prior to the Governor’s announcement. This requirement remains in effect.
The District understands the mandate has created concern and frustration across the state and within our local communities. We recognize the need to listen to all stakeholders, and we are currently planning a Special Session of the NSSD Board in order to hear those concerns. When the date and location are finalized, we will communicate those details.
We will continue to plan for in-person school, full-time. We will be communicating with families about an opt-in weekly COVID testing program, and we will be creating safety plans to file with the State on August 23rd. We recognize the anxiety parents and staff are experiencing, and we believe our best course is to continue forward and have school. This effort will take a common commitment from both families and staff, and we are confident that we can make it happen.
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