COVID caught schools off guard when it first swept across the country in 2020. A lack of available testing and digital teaching tools resulted in mass quarantines, confusion among parents and students and the enactment of COVID-safe practices like wearing masks, daily surface disinfections and social distancing. Bend-La Pine Schools and Redmond School District will open next week, both adhering to Oregon Health Authority guidelines and both putting what they’ve learned the last 18 months to the test.
Masks are required in all indoor settings for students in both districts unless they’re eating, drinking, playing wind instruments or when doing physical activity.
“If they're engaged in something like PE—if they were doing wrestling and it could strangle them if they're playing an instrument, those sorts of things are exceptions to the indoor mask rule,” said Redmond School District public information officer Sheila Miller. “According to the school mask rule, outdoors masks are still recommended but not required. So, in recess kids are not required to wear masks.”
Students also won’t be required to wear masks while actively playing an extracurricular sport, though players, coaches, officials and resting players will.
- Alexandra Koch / Pixabay
- Mask-wearing has some exceptions at local schools, including when students are playing an instrument or doing physical activity.
“Additionally, upon reinstatement of local control of decision-making, the district would continue to partner with local public health authorities to monitor both community rates of transmission and in-school or in-department transmission activity,” BLPS wrote on its website. “In cases where localized transmission rates elevate in schools, district administrators, partnering with local health, may institute more restrictive interventions on a case-by-case basis as conditions are warranted.”
If schools fail to meet mask requirements, they may be liable for a fine.
Distancing and Quarantine
Students will be placed at least 3 feet apart from others in class and at lunch. Schools will also make an effort to do more outside when possible.
“Until it gets too cold, or if it's smoky, we'll try and do meals outside or sometimes, some teachers may want to teach class outside and that'll be that that's just kind of on a school-by-school basis,” Miller said.
Quarantining is less uniform than prior semesters and will be contingent on vaccination status, mask use and proximity.
“If you are fully vaccinated, and you have a close contact with a student or staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19 you do not have to quarantine. Secondly, students who are within 3 feet of another student who tests positive for COVID-19, if they're both wearing a mask correctly, they do not have to quarantine,” Miller said. “If they're not masked, and they're within 6 feet, they do have to quarantine, and if you are within 6 feet of a staff member who tests positive for COVID, even if you have a mask on, you still have to quarantine.”
All healthcare and childcare professionals are required to get vaccinated by Oct. 18 under a statewide executive order.
“We were developing processes, we've provided our staff with that information, as well as with the religious exception form and the medical exemption form that the Oregon Health Authority provided us. So, we expect that all of our staff will and most of our staff is already fully vaccinated,” Miller said.
Students will not be required to get vaccinated at either district to continue attending.
“Bend-La Pine Schools recognizes that the best approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 is a layered defense of protective measures, with the COVID-19 vaccination being the best defense in protecting individuals from contracting COVID-19 and preventing the spread of the virus to others,” BLPS wrote.
RSD will offer full-time online learning options, and BLPS can accommodate both full-time school schedules and hybrid models.
“We learned how valuable technology can be and it allowed us to do a lot of stuff that would have been impossible during the year when we were faced with a global pandemic,” Miller said.