West Linn-Wilsonville students return to class following the end of mask mandate
9-year-old Quinn Johnson might feel a bit self-conscious with everyone seeing her face for the first time in two years — but she said she is excited about this new chapter of the pandemic.
Many faces within the West Linn-Wilsonville School District made appearances Monday, March 14,which marked the expiration of the district-wide mask mandate that was imposed almost two years ago to the day.
"We've been wearing masks for a long time and I get kind of nervous and self conscious when people look at my face now. But it does feel exciting," said Quinn, a fourth grader at Bolton Primary School in West Linn.
Two weeks prior, on Monday, Feb. 28, Superintendent Kathy Ludwig announced in a letter to families that masks would no longer be mandatory on school campuses once the state mandate was lifted March 12. The decision followed a district commitment made in the summer of 2021 that said it would follow the "Ready Schools Safe Learners Resiliency Framework" for the 2021-22 academic year. Through the framework, the district adheres to any federal or state statute requirements.
"I am a little nervous about not wearing a mask," said Rosemont Ridge Middle School seventh grader Luke Egland. "But I'm excited — it's just a very weird feeling."
Despite the lift, the student body at some West Linn schools was mixed with masked and unmasked staff and students. West Linn High School sophomore Sadie Baker said that she plans to wear her mask a bit longer for her safety and others.
"I have a bit of a head cold and I think it's just better for everyone around me if I wore it. I'm also going on vacation, so I don't want to get more sick," she said. "But it is definitely weird seeing the bottom half of people's faces."
While Rosemont Ridge sixth grader Madelin Petrjanos said her parents let her have the final say in whether she would wear a mask or not, she ultimately decided to keep it on.
Madelin said she supports others' decision to remove the mask but feels like she has to re-introduce herself to some classmates.
"It feels kind of weird because I'm seeing some new faces of the people in my classes. I feel like I have to relearn their names" she said.
In a letter to families sent out Sunday, March 13, the district's safety leadership team reiterated that they support the personal health decisions of everyone — and the community should also.
"Respecting each person's individual decision for their own health, wellbeing and comfort is important and expected. Any actions of bullying or othering will not be tolerated. Let's bring our best selves into our school community," the letter said.
Monday also marked changes to some health and safety protocols the district has followed since the start of the year. The district will pause quarantine and contact tracing for all students and staff regardless of vaccination status. But COVID-19 testing and other safety mitigation strategies like vaccinations and handwashing are still highly encouraged.
In the past seven days, the district has reported only five positive cases among students and staff.
"We will just see how it goes," said West Linn High School freshman Lucy Forest, who chose to continue wearing a mask. "I hope there is not going to be another rise in cases, but I guess we will see."
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