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Gov. Brown Orders Rule To Require Masks In All Oregon Schools

Tiffany Eckert

In response to the Delta variant’s rampant spread, the Oregon Health Authority this week recommended universal mask use in public, indoor settings. On Thursday, Governor Kate Brown directed the Department of Education to create a rule to require masks for all K -12 schools.

Eugene’s Bethel School District was undecided about whether or not to require masks when classes start in September. On Wednesday, spokesperson Alisha Dodds said they’ve been consulting with Bethel nursing staff and state and local health officials. 

“We are really excited to welcome students back to full time learning, in person, this school year," said Dodds. "And as a part of that we are working to determine health and safety protocols for our school community and what that looks like for us.”

Credit Bethel School District
Students kindergarten through high school will be required to wear masks indoors at school. Willamette High School is in the Bethel School District.

Before the governor’s announcement, other area schools were still considering their facial covering policies.

Pleasant Hill School District recently sent out a survey asking community members if masks should be "optional" or "required." Superintendent Chris Linenburger said over 76% of responents so far had checked the box for "face coverings should be optional for all students and staff." The survey was suspended Thursday.

Credit Pleasant Hill School District
Pleasant Hill School District serves about one thousand students in elementary, middle and high school. All of them will be required to mask up for classes in the fall.

Linenburger said his district will comply with the expectations of the governor's office, OHA and ODE to require everyone to wear a mask inside schools. 

Individual districts are free to make their own COVID-19 safety rules. However, state and federal mandates supersede. 

Credit Tiffany Eckert
Governor Kate Brown has directed the Oregon Health Authority and Department of Education to create a rule requiring facial coverings in all K-12 classrooms when schools resume full time in person instruction this fall.

From the Oregon Department of Education

Today Governor Brown directed the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to create a rule requiring face coverings in all indoor school settings, both public and private, for all individuals two years and older, including all students, staff, contractors, volunteers and visitors. This decision is in response to the sharp uptick in the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon and the emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19.

Maintaining Continuity of Learning By Maintaining Health And Safety

Universal and correct use of face coverings keeps kids learning in person, which we all agree is best for students. Two of the most important tools the state has to control COVID-19 are vaccination and face covering. However, currently children under the age of 12 are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use. In order to protect students under age 12, individuals who are not vaccinated, and those with underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to complications from COVID-19, as well as to minimize the disruption of student education in schools because of exposure to a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, requiring universal use of face coverings inside schools is necessary.

The rule will include provisions for:

  • Eating or drinking.
  • Playing a musical instrument that requires using the mouth.
  • Swimming or other water sports.
  • Engaging in a sport in which wearing a mask could be a strangulation hazard such as gymnastics or wrestling.
  • Nothing in the rule is intended to prohibit a school from complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  
  • A school that violates the rule will be subject to civil penalties. 
Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.
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