Back-to-School Updates: Fall 2021
From the Sherwood School District
August 12, 2021
Hello Sherwood School District Students, Families, and Staff! The start of the new school year is just a few weeks away, and we are excited to begin the 2021-22 school year going back to full-time, in-person school for our students at all of our SSD schools. In this communication, you will find initial information about health and safety procedures that will affect all schools in our district as we prepare to start school this fall -- please watch for additional updates and information about the start of the school year from both your school and the District Office as we get closer to the first day of school.
K-12 Face Covering Rule
On August 2, 2021, the Oregon Department of Health enacted OAR 333-019-1015, which mandates face coverings/masks for all individuals two years and older in all indoor school settings. Our Board of Directors voted to uphold this mandate at their August 4 meeting.
The statewide rule requires mask use indoors by students, staff, and campus visitors:
At school during regular school hours
When engaged in educational activities such as field trips or off-campus classes
At school when engaged in educational activities outside of regular school hours
The rule does include some exceptions to mask use, such as when an individual is:
Actively eating or drinking
Playing a musical instrument that requires using the mouth
Engaged in a sport during physical education class such as swimming or other water sports, or a sport where a mask could be a strangulation hazard (such as wrestling)
Alone in a private office enclosed by walls on all sides with a door that is closed
This rule will be reviewed monthly by the Oregon Health Authority, and could be lifted at a later time. On August 4, our Board of Directors determined that if the mask mandate is lifted and decision-making returns to the local level at a future time, our district will implement a policy making the use of masks by students optional at that time.
Additional Mask Requirement
On August 11, Governor Kate Brown announced the implementation of a statewide mask requirement for all adults and children over the age of 5 in indoor public spaces. This latest requirement takes effect tomorrow, August 13. In alignment with that change, our district will be upholding this additional requirement for staff and visitors to all district buildings effective tomorrow, including buildings where students are not present, and during all hours buildings are open (not just school hours).
In the past when our district has had indoor mask requirements, one question that always arises is the use of masks by players during indoor sports/athletics. The most recent guidance from the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) indicates that face coverings are recommended but not required for indoor sports. At this time, student athletes will not be required to wear masks during active athletics practice or competition. However, coaches and spectators are required to wear masks at all times when indoors, and players are required to wear masks when not in active play. We will continue to watch for any changes in guidance from the OSAA related to the use of masks for indoor sports.
Another health and safety strategy adopted by our Board of Directors on August 4 was the adoption of the Oregon Department of Education’s (ODE) physical distancing recommendation. While not required, ODE strongly advises schools to continue the practice of physical distancing in school settings, of at least 3 feet between students to the extent possible. Additionally, the Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework provides an exception to quarantine requirements for students in grades K-12 where physical distancing of at least 3 feet has been maintained in combination with the proper use of face coverings/masks. This means that if a positive COVID-19 case is identified on campus, exposed students who consistently maintained 3 feet of physical distance and properly used a mask at the time of exposure will not be required to quarantine. The adoption of this recommendation will increase the number of students who will be able to remain in school, attending in-person learning, when cases are identified in our schools. Additionally, with the current capacity of our school buildings, implementation of this recommendation for 3 feet of physical distancing will not cause class sizes to be impacted at any location.
Another health strategy advised by ODE that is intended to minimize the need for quarantine, thereby keeping students in school more consistently, is the use of cohorts. However, at the middle and high school level, the use of cohorts limits course availability, and is less critical in preventing quarantine time out of school due to vaccine availability for students ages 12 and up. For this reason, the Board of Directors determined on August 4 that grade level cohorts will be used at the elementary school level, with no cohorts being used at the middle and high school level. This means that elementary school students will spend recess and lunch periods with other students in their same grade level, and that middle and high school students will not be restricted in course selection.
While our district has received questions and feedback related to vaccine requirements, there is currently no requirement for students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend school, nor is any recommendation about required vaccines listed in the Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework. On August 4, our Board of Directors further clarified this issue by voting that the district agrees to not make decisions at the local level about requiring COVID-19 vaccines as a requirement for attendance.