Siuslaw School District puts masking decision in parents’ hands

Statewide indoor mask mandate ends today, March 12

March 12, 2022 — At their regular monthly meeting on March 9, the Siuslaw School District (SSD) Board of Directors finalized school protocols for COVID mitigation after the state of Oregon ended its indoor masking mandate, effective March 12.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Siuslaw School District has followed the guidelines set forth by both the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).

On March 2, ODE released an update to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols school districts in Oregon are expected to follow after the mask mandate ends on March 12th.

These new guidelines were released by the Oregon Department of Education:

  • Contact tracing will no longer be required because Omicron spreads so quickly, by the time a COVID exposure is identified and contact tracing is performed, transmission has already occurred.
  • Students and staff who are exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 will not be required to quarantine if they are asymptomatic.
  • Students and staff who test positive for COVID or become symptomatic after an exposure will be expected to isolate for at least 5 days with day 0 being the first day of symptoms or test date.  Isolation ends after 5 full days if the individual is fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved.
    • It is recommended that individuals wear a well-fitting mask around others in public for an additional 5 days after the end of their isolation period.
  • The district will notify families if a COVID exposure occurs in their child’s classroom or other specific, unique group; this will allow families to take additional precautions according to their particular health needs.
  • The district will offer COVID testing when students and staff are exposed to a positive case of COVID.
  • Students and staff may continue to attend school regardless of their participation in exposure testing.
  • The district will strive for a physical distance between students of at least 3 feet during high risk activities:  meal times and indoor physical activities (physical education and recess)
  • Masks will no longer be required for students or staff on school buses.

Masks will no longer be required for SSD students or staff in the general school setting.

“Please remember that there are still some staff and students who will choose to wear a mask within the school setting,” said Andy Grzeskowiak, SSD Superintendent in an email to parents and staff. “This is a choice that may reflect personal health concerns or be a necessity due to the health issues of family members.  We will respect everyone’s choice and the school district will not tolerate bullying, harassment or intimidation regarding a persons’ choice to wear or not wear a mask.”

At the school board meeting on March 9, Grzeskowiak summed up the state’s guidelines, went over how those guidelines apply to SSD and what his recommendation will be to the board as to how SSD would move forward with mitigation steps that are within the district’s control.

“Mask or face coverings will not be required for staff or students in general classroom settings or indoor environment, but the use of masks will be encouraged,” Grzeskowiak said. “Masks will still be available and those who wish to continue wearing them will be allowed to do so.”

Grzeskowiak also mentioned tables will be rearranged or added at all three schools to provide opportunity for socially distanced dining. 

Grzeskowiak said that those who test positive for COVID will still be required to isolate for five days. After five days have passed, symptoms have resolved and there is no fever for 24 hours, a student may return to campus. 

Grzeskowiak’s recommendations also encouraged students and staff to continue to participate in testing programs, but he said that no one will be required to be tested. 

To wrap up his recommendations, Grzeskowiak said, that moving forward, the decision to mask would be between a parent and their child and that the district would honor that decision. 

The board unanimously approved Grzeskowiak’s recommendations.

However, Director Brian Lacouture used his portion of the “Board Member Communications” part of the meeting to share his feelings about COVID and the mitigation steps that have been taken. He used his three minutes to ask those listening to review the recommendations that were made by the OHA and ODE and ask themselves what worked and what didn’t.

“Regarding all this COVID …, with all my research, studying, listening, watching and following, my personal conclusion is this: it’s nonsense,” said Lacouture. “My challenge to you would be to review what we’ve been told over the last two years. I know things change, but please look at the things that we were told was completely wrong that is now currently accepted.”

Look for full coverage of the SSD Board of Directors March meeting in the March 16 Siuslaw News. 

To view the meeting, go to:

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