(Update: Adding background on state's school mask requirement)
Calls masks visual 'form of discrimination and inequality'
CULVER, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Culver school superintendent told parents and the community Friday that the district will challenge the state's order that students and staff wear masks when classes resume this fall.
Here's her full letter posted on their website:
July 30, 2021
Culver School District was extremely disappointed to learn yesterday that Governor Kate Brown mandated masks for public schools for the upcoming school year. We believe it is our District’s role to consider the full impact on safety, learning, and social development that masks have on children.
At our school board meeting last night we confirmed the following:
- Children are medically, physically, and psychologically harmed by mask mandates.
- Masks are a form of discrimination & inequality that is visual, day after day. The students in poverty have to use the school provided medical blue disposable masks, they do not have access to the custom store-bought ones. This visually shows their economic status to everyone.
- No one at the State Level is talking about the psychological effects of masks and communication. We saw negative effects daily on our campus.
- We never had an outbreak of any kind on campus from September to June. Cases that did happen were from exposures outside of school and our parents were excellent at being cautious, informing the school, and keeping their students home if there was even a hint of illness. We trust them to do so again.
- We have an excellent partnership with the Jefferson County Health Department.
- Every decision needs to be given to families and we trust that they determine what they feel is best for their child, both for masks and vaccines.
I will not tolerate any mandate that risks the safety, learning, or social development of our students.
Our district will do whatever it takes to retain the stance of local decision making and have masks be optional, honoring each family’s wishes for their own student.
There will be more to come & we value our students, families, staff & community!
Elementary Principal & District Superintendent
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has recommended masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors inside of schools, regardless of vaccination status.
On Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown announced that the state of Oregon will require students and staff in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors this fall.
In a statement from the Oregon Department of Education, officials say they are working to create a rule requiring face coverings in all indoor school settings — both public and private — for all individuals 2 and older. This includes students, staff, contractors, volunteers and visitors.
The rule will include provisions for eating, drinking, playing a musical instrument that requires using the mouth and certain sports — including swimming, gymnastics and wrestling.
Officials say the rule will take effect upon adoption, but the exact date is unclear.
But as masks are reimplemented in some places, Oregon health officials warned Friday the predicted daily COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations in August show a sharp increase.
Based on the Oregon Health Authority’s newest COVID-19 modeling, at the current level of transmission, over the next two weeks daily cases would continue to rapidly increase to an estimated 1,170 cases and 95 new hospitalizations per day. The average amount of cases per day last week was 443 and an average of about 21 new daily hospitalizations, based on data from the health authority.
“I’m extremely concerned about the situation right now, but extremely grateful that we have other tools in this fight that we didn’t have six month ago,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist and health officer. “The vaccines that we currently have available to us in Oregon and across the United States are highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and death from COVID-19 – but that depends on people being vaccinated.”
Currently, about 29% of adults in Oregon remain unvaccinated. Last month, the health authority reported that 92% of coronavirus cases in June and 94% of coronavirus deaths occurred in unvaccinated Oregonians.
“We know that people would like to move on from COVID-19 – but unfortunately it is here and it is a much more formidable foe right now than it has been for the last year and a half,” Sidelinger said. “But the tools that we have are also more formidable, so let's use them.”
The impacts of the virus on unvaccinated people are apparent when looking at high-infection rates in counties with low-vaccination rates.
Last week, in rural Umatilla County where 43% of adults are partially or fully vaccinated, the areas coronavirus-test positivity rate surpassed 14%. On Friday health officials reported that the Pendleton Whisky Music Fest, which was held in Umatilla County on July 10, was the site of an outbreak — so far, 58 people who attended the event have tested positive for COVID-19.