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Starting March 12, students and staff will no longer be required to wear face coverings while on school grounds.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The West Linn-Wilsonville School District will lift its mask mandate in conjunction with the state on March 12. After nearly two years, West Linn-Wilsonville School District students and staff will soon no longer need to wear a mask on school grounds or on buses — yet it is still strongly encouraged.

On Monday, Feb. 28, in a letter to families, Superintendent Dr. Kathy Ludwig announced that masks would no longer be mandatory on school campuses once the state mandate is lifted March 12. The decision was made just hours after an Oregon Health Authority announcement that the timeline for lifting the mandate would be pushed up a week, from March 19 to March 12.

"Wearing masks will be strongly advised but not required," Ludwig said.

Ludwig explained that OHA pushed forward the timeline due to a current model from Oregon Health and Science University that indicates hospitalizations will fall below 400 Oregonians per day by March 12.

"State officials continue to strongly recommend universal masking in K-12 settings because these settings bring together vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, as well as individuals who are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness," Ludwig said in the letter.

In the letter, Ludwig explained that the decision to follow statewide restrictions stems from a commitment made last year. In July 2021 the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board passed a motion that it would follow 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.

"Students, staff and volunteers may continue wearing masks at school even after March 11, 2022. The West Linn-Wilsonville district and schools will continue to ensure PPE is available to staff and students; effective air flow and ventilation are maintained in buildings; and cohorts remain in place where possible," Ludwig said.

The school district has identified 25 positive COVID-19 cases in students and staff in the past week. In the letter, the district said it is still awaiting guidance from the Oregon Department of Education and Clackamas County Public Health Division regarding updates to testing, quarantine protocol and contact tracing. But families should anticipate more information by the end of the week.

Ludwig said the district will continue to uphold "a culture of inclusion, respect, equity and care" for all community members no matter their personal health decisions.

"There will be no tolerance for verbal taunts or othering behaviors based on how people make a decision regarding their own personal health. We appreciate that our community chooses to model respectful, civil and safe engagement with one another," Ludwig said.

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