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School board encourages community to join in request by writing state, county and local leaders.

COURTESY PHOTO: KELLY SIKKEMA - At this time, masks will be required indoors at Oregon schools this fall, but parents and some school district leaders are pushing back against that requirement.The largely conservative Canby School Board is sticking its neck out with a statement in support of local control over mask requirements in schools.

"As elected leaders of the Canby School District, we will advocate for local control of decision-making on health and safety protocols for our schools so we can serve our community's specific needs," the statement said.

The board issued the statement during its regularly scheduled work session late last month, noting that the Oregon Department of Education had released its Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework for School Year 2021-22 in late June. This framework provided for local decision-making on most COVID-19 health and safety protocols, including face coverings.

The statement also pointed out that the board worked in collaboration with new Superintendent Aaron Downs, district staff, administrators, union leadership, community feedback and Clackamas County Public Health prior to adopting operational framework for the school year.

According to the school board's statement, that framework:

• Supported a return to full-time, in-person instruction for all students.

• Honored and recognized the uniqueness of the Canby community.

• Supported schools in health and safety planning to meet community-specific needs.

• Recommended, but did not require, face coverings for all students, staff and visitors while inside school buildings and district facilities.

• Encouraged physical distancing of 3 feet to be maintained, to the extent possible.

• Declared that students and staff are not required to get COVID-19 vaccinations in order to attend school or be employed at the Canby School District.

The situation changed July 29, when Gov. Kate Brown implemented a mandatory statewide K-12 indoor mask mandate, requiring Downs, administrators and staff to once again alter their framework to meet the new protocols.

In its statement, the board acknowledged that it recognizes its "duty to uphold the laws of the state of Oregon" but formally requested a return to local control over all decision-making pertaining to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The board asked the community to join in advocating for local control by contacting state, county and local leaders.

The statement comes as area superintendents, including Tony Mann from Molalla and interim Dave Kline from Colton, made similar requests for local control. Downs, however, has not taken a formal stance on the issue and declined to comment to the Herald-Pioneer other than to refer to his letter, sent on the same day of Brown's mask requirement announcement, which simply acknowledged that the mandate removes local control.

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