Communities, Front Page, Oakridge/Westfir

Oakridge schools prepare to lift indoor mask requirement to ensure student, staff health

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By DEAN REA/Editor/The Herald—The Oakridge School District is seeking public input on how to best serve students when the state lifts the indoor mask requirement in schools at the end of March.

A survey will be distributed early next week, Supt. Reta Doland told board members Monday night. Meanwhile, steps are being taken to protect students and faculty when the Oregon Health Authority lifts the mandate, she said.

Additional janitorial and health personnel will be among needed staff, she said in reviewing  how the district may deal with COVID-19. Students will be returning to school a week after spring vacation, which Doland said may result in an increase in illness among students and teachers.

Doland praised the community for its support while Oakridge schools have dealt with the pandemic during the past two years.

During the mask discussion, Chairman Kevin Martin said, “Everywhere I go, people say we should release the masks as soon as we can.” He later added, “I’m a rule-follower, but kids tell me they don’t want to wear masks any longer.”

Other board members commented:

Susan Hardy said, “I don’t want kids or staff getting sick.”

Mikal McPherson said, “Everywhere I go, people say we should release the masks as soon as we can.”

Clem Pope, who noted that he is a health care worker, said, “I see covid every day but not a lot of mask-wearing in the community. It should be optional.”

Members of the math department described course offerings that included a class designed to teach skills useful to future carpenters and tradespeople.

Students from first grade through high school appear to be performing at higher levels in math and reading, reported Chad Harrison, director of special education, an evaluation he makes periodically following national criteria.

“Teachers are working hard to close the student performance gaps,” he said, “and the institutional health (of the Oakridge School District) has many indicators of positive improvements, leading to better outcomes.”

The board approved an “All Students Belong” policy that ensures an environment in which students and staff are “free from discrimination or harassment based on perceived race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or national origin.”

Two citizen candidates are needed to fill the 10-member budget committee. Check with the school to learn how to volunteer.

Board members voted to conduct board meetings, starting with a work session tonight (Tuesday), in a former storage room at the high school. Members of the public may still attend virtually. The site appears at the top of the meeting agenda.

“Wear your masks,” Martin reminded board members.







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