LO school board favors plan requiring masks for elementary students
The newly-elected Lake Oswego School Board met Thursday, July 22 to discuss the updated health and safety draft plan for the 2021-22 school year.
Going forward, the tentative plan requires elementary students to wear masks in the classroom, but not for outdoor activities. Cohorting will be in place for elementary classes and math groups but not for recess, and physical distancing of three feet will be maintained to the extent possible.
Secondary students who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised will be strongly encouraged — but not required — to wear masks. Cohorting will not be required for secondary levels but physical distancing of three feet will be maintained to the extent possible. Secondary students who are under age 12 — some sixth graders — will be required to wear a mask.
The draft plan was originally presented to the community July 16. The district then put out a survey to get the community's input on the plan.
Some overarching themes from the July 16 survey responses included wanting masks to be required for unvaccinated students and a desire to not have social distancing or cohorting requirements.
The district has put out surveys to the community throughout the process of creating the plan. The community will have the opportunity to be heard in one additional survey before the final plan is presented to the board Aug. 2. Families will also have the opportunity to attend an information session on the district's virtual learning option before the Aug. 2 meeting.
LOSD Superintendent Jennifer Schiele started her Thursday presentation of the draft plan by reiterating that the district's number one goal is to support a successful full-time in-person schedule in the 2021-22 school year.
"This is something that's kind of leading our way and guiding us in all of our decision-making," she said.
New guidance from the Oregon Department of Education states that students no longer will have to quarantine if those exposed to the virus were consistently wearing masks.
Past requirements from the state dictated that if a student was exposed to the virus they would have to quarantine for 14 days.
Under this new guidance, unvaccinated people who constantly wear face masks in the classroom will be exempt from quarantining if exposed.
Schiele said this is an important exemption because it allows for the plan for a return to full in-person learning to be uninterrupted, so long as unvaccinated students wear masks.
"The masks, for those who have not been vaccinated, can make the difference for them to not have to quarantine for 14 days," she said.
Given this information, Schiele asked the board for their thoughts on whether to strongly advise elementary students to wear masks or require that all elementary students wear masks.
"I think from a safety standpoint, these children under the age of 12 can't be vaccinated so my feeling is I think we should require (masks)," board member John Wallin said.
Board member Brian Bills asked that the plan would more explicitly encourage the community to get vaccinated, as it is the best way to curb the virus.
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