The Redmond School Board directed district staff to draft a new COVID-19 policy that makes masks optional for both students and staff at its regular meeting Feb. 16. The deadline for implementing the policy is March 2, short of the date of March 31 state health and education officials announced would be the latest date masks would be required.
Redmond's Board Chair Shawn Hartfield and board member Michael Summers drafted the resolution, with the board making a handful of revisions after the board and Superintendent Charan Cline discussed the policy. The original resolution set the deadline at Feb. 22, included vaccination choice and striking language that would have barred staff from enforcing mask mandates.
The resolution argues that lockdowns and mask mandates have been ineffective, that Gov. Kate Brown's mandates don't have proper oversight and that it "discriminated and marginalized parents and students desiring to make their own medical decisions."
"Speaking for myself, this resolution is putting the government back in its lane, and so to me this isn't so much about arguing over data, it's that we delegate authority to elected officials to make bills, legislation, on our behalf," Summers said. "When they don't do that and when they work these kind of actions through legal workarounds, and the court has held them up, that is not what we have asked them to do."
Liz Goodrich, the sole dissenting vote on the board, opposed the resolution for failing to consult with public health officials, and for making claims she said weren't factually accurate; namely that there is a link between increased teen suicides and COVID policies.
"I have concerns that this resolution is rushed, poorly constructed," Goodrich said during the meeting. "Shawn [Hartfield] I think you told me at the last board meeting that any decision that we make would be in consultation with local public health authorities; we have not heard from them."
Hartfield responded that district staff can consult with public health authorities as they form a plan. Throughout the meeting Superintendent Cline expressed uncertainty over how long the process could take. The Board agreed to delay the deadline after Cline informed it it needs at least two weeks to negotiate with the teacher's union.
"There's simply no way this can be done in a couple days; we're not a small district of 120 like Alsea," Cline said during the meeting, referencing the only other district in the state to opt out of mandates. Alsea Superintendent Marc Thielman joined the call and offered advice to the board on challenges the district will likely face once implementing an optional mask policy.
Redmond School District's current COVID mitigation policies will remain in place until a plan is put in place.