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Frustrated school superintendents advocate for local control, suggest residents share thoughts with officials

Following Gov. Kate Brown's announcement July 29 that she had directed Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority to require masks in schools this fall, some parents have begun to push back.

"Nope. It's time to unenroll our students and find a better alternative then [sic] continue to force children into living this way," Rebecca J Tee said on Facebook in response to the news.

And local superintendents are encouraging those parents to write letters to state leaders.

Prior to the announcement, Canby, Colton and Molalla River school districts had all planned to make mask-wearing optional this fall.

Molalla Superintendent Tony Mann said Tuesday, Aug. 3, in a letter to families that he had heard from many parents, district staff and community membersabout their frustrations with the decision to require masks. 

Mann said that some in the community even want the district and board of directors to defy the governor's order and the new public health rule — a request Mann said the district would not fulfill.

"Like other superintendents in the region, please know that I am frustrated," Mann said. "I believe the school district should be able to retain local control over decisions that affect our students, their families and all of our staff directly. In the Molalla River School District we stand ready, without hesitation, to make decisions about COVID mitigation at a local level in collaboration with our Clackamas County Local Public Health Authority.

"At this time, however, the legal authority for local control over face coverings in all K-12 schools has been revoked by the state.

"Even though the state of Oregon's direction to require masks does not represent the wishes of many in our community, including many parents and employees alike," Mann continued, "neither the board of directors nor any district's employee can knowingly violate state orders. As a public servant and as superintendent, I stand by my commitment to enforce and adhere to all policies in the district, which includes following all federal and state laws. "

Instead, Mann encouraged the community to write letters to the Oregon Department of Education, the Oregon Health Authority and local state senators and representatives.

Colton's new interim superintendent, Dave Kline, sent a similar letter on the same day, expressing frustration over Brown's announcement and encouraging the community to write to ODE and local state senators and representatives as well as the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners.

"The Colton School District will do everything within our power to maintain local control over the educational experience," Kline said. "My goal is to allow families and staff to make informed decisions and honor each family's wishes for their own student, while supporting anyone who chooses to wear a mask for their own protection." 

Canby's new superintendent, Aaron Downs, wrote a letter to families on the same day of Brown's announcement, acknowledging that the directive removes local control over face coverings in school. Otherwise, Downs's letter to families was impartial, noting he would provide more updates as the district learned more. In response to follow-up questions, Downs said the district had nothing to add.

The Molalla and Colton superintendents included contact information for state leaders as follows.

Gov. Kate Brown: Oregon.gov/gov/pages/contact.aspx

ODE: Oregon.gov/ode/about-us/pages/contact-us.aspx

OHA: Oregon.gov/oha/pages/contact-us.aspx

Board of County Commissioners: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rep. Christine Drazan: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rep. Rick Lewis: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sen. Fred Girod: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sen. Bill Kennemer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Kristen Wohlers
Reporter
503-263-7512
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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