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School district to follow state rules as superintendent works with attorneys on what is required at CCSD

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Students will be back in the classroom on day one, and face coverings are required for now.

School will start next week on time and in person, but make sure students pack their masks.

Like previous school years, Tuesday will be the first day for first and sixth grade students as well as high school freshmen. Kindergarten students at Brothers and Paulina schools will also start school on Tuesday. All grades other than kindergarten will begin their school year on Wednesday – kindergarten conferences are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, with the first day of school for kindergartners planned for Monday, Sept. 13.

The school start and end times will again be staggered among the elementary schools. The school day for Barnes Butte Elementary will begin at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:05 p.m. Crooked River Elementary's school day will take place between 8 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., and Steins Pillar Elementary School hours will be 8:10 a.m. to 2:25 p.m.

Crook County Middle School starts its school day at 9:10 a.m. and ends at 3:25 p.m., while Crook County High School's school day takes place from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. School days at Pioneer High School will start at 9:10 a.m. and conclude at 3:40 p.m.

The school week at Brothers and Paulina schools will be Monday through Thursday, with Brothers School taking place from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Paulina School will start its school days at 7:55 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m.

Information on school supplies, meals and transportation was released last week and can be found at the Crook County School District website under the "Back to School" link.

Students can attend Crook County schools in person at the beginning of the school year, regardless of grade, which was not possible in 2020. However, they will be required to wear a mask, per state requirement.

"June brought good news from Gov. Kate Brown that local decision-making and control would return to schools and counties. Unfortunately, that has shifted due to a rise in COVID-19 cases because of the delta variant," said CCSD Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson. "The governor's office, the justice department, the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority have made it clear that masks will be required for students and staff this school year."

Johnson said she has "spent hours advocating for local control, talking with Colt Gill from ODE, and working with the school board to find alternative solutions."

"Unfortunately, the state has pulled out all the stops to enforce masks, through increased penalties, fines and threats of criminal liability," she said.

Those penalties include up to a $126,749 fine per violation for "willful negligence" and a daily penalty of up to $2,600 for continued noncompliance. In addition, each separate school that violates the policy could be fined up to $500 per day. Licensed educators who fail to obey the mask mandate could face additional penalties, including revocation of professional licensing, and school board members and district leadership staff can face criminal liability. To enforce the mandate, OSHA will be making unannounced visits to monitor compliance.

Although Johnson and other educators had hoped to start the school year mask-free, she is eager to start another school year, one that will finally take place in person from day one.

"Despite the challenges of COVID-19, I'm optimistic about the upcoming school year," she said.

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