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Board also expressed appreciation to district employees and considered bonuses.

The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board met Monday, Feb. 7, to mull mask mandates and COVID-19 protocols.

Mask updates

Following an Oregon Health Authority announcement made hours before the school board meeting, Superintendent Kathy Ludwig updated the board on what is to follow for the district.

OHA announced Feb. 7 it will lift the mask mandate in schools on March 31. As of March 31, the decision to require universal masking in school settings will rest with administrators in school districts, charter schools, private schools and local public health authorities. Masks will still be required on public transportation, which includes school buses, until a mandate is lifted by the federal government.

Ludwig said the board passed a motion in July 2021 that followed the "Ready Schools Safe Learners Resiliency Framework" for the 2021-22 academic year. Through the framework, the district will follow any federal or state statute requirements. This status remains in place for any current federal guidance, unless the board decides to amend or overturn their agreement to the framework.

Until March 31, the district will use a timeline to process the OHA update and make appropriate plans to implement the changes. The district will continue updating community members with information as it becomes available.

Ludwig recognized that every announcement ultimately shifts things for families. She also said families who anticipate moving to the district's online option in light of the update are encouraged to do so sooner rather than later, as students have just begun a new semester.

"What we've learned throughout this process is nobody has the same agreed-upon opinion about these things — there isn't a universal agreement with anything that's happened with COVID," Ludwig said. "Sometimes one announcement is met with applause, and another is met with frustration. We coexist in that dichotomy."

During the public comment portion of the meeting, community members advocated for the district to remove indoor face-covering requirements in concert with OHA's timeline.

One commenter said masks emotionally damage youth, and that suicide attempt rates have surged in the past two years. He alluded that it is because of face coverings. Another commenter said she knows a local kindergartener who has regressed to mumbling when they speak due to wearing a mask all day.

"Imagine all day, every day, wearing a mask for two years. I shudder to think of the unknown long-term consequences of it everywhere. But what we are doing to our children in Oregon is not only wrong but incredibly unjust compared to what other states have done. Our kids are missing out on so much of life that other states have not taken from their kids," said the commenter.

Letter to Gov. Kate Brown

Despite the state's new expiration date for mask mandates, the board also considered sending a letter, originally drafted by board members Kelly Sloop and Louis Taylor, calling for local control when it comes to mask policies

"As leaders of the WLWV School District, we will advocate for a safe and inclusive learning environment, offer support for health and safety protocols for our schools, so we can serve our community's specific needs. A one-size fits all approach to statewide mask mandates is no longer appropriate and an off-ramp or metric for permanent masks must be considered," the letter said.

Board member Kirsten Wyatt proposed the board write the letter in a different style.

She hoped to mention that the district did not close during the recent uptick of omicron cases, and requested benchmarks to follow if another variant were to arrive.

Wyatt also stated that she does not believe asking for local control during the pandemic is reasonable, and would not be supportive of adding that in the letter.

Chair Chelsea King agreed with some of Wyatt's edits, such as requesting the metrics that clearly state how the district should operate.

"I think what director Wyatt did with the original version does a couple things for me that brings me to a 'yes' vote, where I wasn't quite there with this first draft of the letter," King said.

King said the local control aspect in the first letter is "a little ambiguous," as every community is interconnected in some way, and decisions made by one county affect the rest of the state in some way. Another concern of King's was that the letter did not include the new information released by OHA, that mask requirements would be lifted by March 31.

"I want to make sure we're representing ourselves well," said King. "The other thing is, I'm not actually looking for sugar-coating or catching more bees with honey — that's not what I'm trying to do with this letter, but there is a certain way to write a letter to a governor that I think we need to capture in the voice."

The letter was put back on the drawing board after board members agreed they should redraft it with slight variations around wording and reflecting current events.

Appreciation of staff

The district penned another letter to show its appreciation for district employees.

Board Vice Chair Christy Thompson said she originally thought of this idea because she wanted every district staff member to know how valued they are.

"We want to acknowledge that it is because of your diligence and commitment to the students in our district that our school continues to remain open for in-person learning," the letter said. "We know that you are working extra shifts, covering colleagues, classes during your prep times, arriving earlier and staying later and going above and beyond your required responsibility to service our students and community."

In appreciation for the hard work educators and staff complete every day in the district, Thompson also proposed that the board consider approving a $1,000 bonus to every district employee. Thompson had already run the idea past Superintendent Ludwig and Dr. Son Le Hughes, the district's chief financial officer. Both said the bonus was possible in the district's budget.

The board will have the chance to approve the bonus at the next work session on Feb. 22 or during the regular meeting on March 14.


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