School board will consider calling for local control; superintendent says they can’t change state mandate
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) — It was a full house in the Redmond High School auditorium Wednesday evening as hundreds of vocal community members attended a Redmond School Board meeting, hours after Gov. Kate Brown announced and defended her new state mask mandate order for all indoor public spaces.
In recent days and weeks, school board meetings across Central Oregon have sparked friction and opposition from some parents as the state set a mask mandate for schools that are preparing to open in September.
To provide insight, the Redmond School Board brought in attorney Greg Colvin to discuss the legal ramifications for those who decide not to follow the Oregon Health Authority’s rule regarding mask mandates.
Colvin says the highest penalty for not following mandates would be for educators who willfully don’t wear a mask in a school setting. He added that teachers could have their licenses negatively affected, with a suspension or even eradication.
The school board also invited Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill by Zoom to provide further context on the contentious situation.
“Today, we set a new record for the the number hospitalizations and ICU bed fills,” Gill said. “And that record is set over yesterday’s record. So we’re really in this dire situation in the state of Oregon in caring not only for our COVID patients but people who are ill, have a heart attack, have an accident and need that possible care.”
Some in the crowd booed, calling his his data “fake” and one woman said, “The vaccine is poison!”
And Nahad Sadr-Azodi, the Deschutes County Health Department’s public health director, also joined the meeting by Zoom to provide some local COVID-19 updates and data regarding the virus.
“As I mentioned earlier, the delta variant is more contagious than the other ones,” Sadr-Azodi said. “And we’re seeing it’s spreading very similar to what we see in the chicken pox.”
Others in the audience said they wanted to see studies that prove masks work when it comes to the transmission of the virus.
During the public comment section, students and parents alike spoke out against mask mandates, while others supported it.
One student, Carson Wolf, says the mask has made life at school difficult.
“Last year, my transfer into sixth grade was unbearable,” Wolf said. “Having to wear a mask, I felt trapped. More than half my face was covered.”
She added that the mask made it difficult for her to socialize and learn from her teachers.
“I’m a very social student, and with masks, it made it pretty difficult for me to connect with teachers and students,” Wolf said. “When I was in school wearing a mask, it caused me a lot of anxiety about my mask falling down, and it really affected my learning.”
Redmond School District counselor Kris Davis also spoke about his personal and professional views on the mask mandate.
“What about the student whose parents believe masks are not useful and infringe on those rights we choose?” Davis said. “Most likely, those students will have problems adhering to the mask mandates. In schools, these students commingle, and it leads to a struggle in the classroom.”
Davis says the mandate can cause issues for students that have never even been in trouble throughout their entire academic career.
“We have students that have never been disciplined before, being called out for improper mask-wearing by teachers and support staff,” Davis said. “This causes embarrassment and frustration for these students.”
Ridgeview High School teacher Barry Branaugh said he does not like wearing the mask, but he believes people need to make a sacrifice for the community.
“Science tells us that the two best things we can do to minimize COVID and shorten the impact of this crisis is to get vaccinated and wear a mask,” Branaugh said. “In other words, make a sacrifice for the betterment of our community. Yet we have a large segment of people who believe it violates their individual liberty, and in some cases erroneously violates their constitutional rights.”
Branaugh added that he’s worried about other strains developing.
“The longer we try and put off COVID, the better chance that a more mutated strain develops, including ones that are resistant to the vaccine,” he said.
Another concerned parent also spoke in favor of the masks.
“Transmission is also greatest with prolonged indoor closed contact, making the school setting without interventions especially high-risk,” she said. “If masks are removed during periods of high transmission such as now, our common goal of keeping children in the classroom will fail.”
The vast majority of public comments wanted masks to be optional for students and teachers.
In a majority vote of 4-1 the board decided to move forward with forming a resolution for their next meeting on August 25, to try and bring local control back to the district to make masks optional — a proposal that brought resounding cheers, applause and a standing ovation from most in the auditorium.
But Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline said the school board does not have the power to change the state mandate.
Central Oregon / Coronavirus / Deschutes County / Government-politics / Local News / News / Top Stories / Videos