August 5, 2021
Dear Athena-Weston Families:
Since schools closed in March of 2020, the Athena-Weston School District advocated for and remained focused on safely reopening schools to full-time, in-person learning for our students. On July 29, 2021, Governor Brown directed the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education to draft rules mandating face coverings indoors for all K-12 schools. To many families this mandate feels like a big step backward, but it is important to remember that opening school on time and in-person, Monday through Friday is a big step forward from last fall. Our highest priority is having our students at school for onsite learning, and our staff is thrilled to welcome students back to campus on August 30th.
The K-12 indoor mask rule will be in effect on our campuses beginning Monday, August 9, 2021. The governor and the Oregon Health Authority will monitor conditions monthly to determine when schools can return to local decision-making regarding masks. For the past eighteen months, district leaders in our region, including the Athena-Weston administration, have advocated for local decision-making with regard to school closures and safety measures, and we will continue to do that through this next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, please understand that noncompliance with state mandates is not feasible for a public school district due to the possibility of liability issues, fines, and licensure sanctions. Below are actions that both the district and you as parents can take to advocate for the district, support our students, and ensure a smooth start to the 2021-2022 school year.
The District Will…
Continue to advocate for local decision-making based on local conditions and needs
Enthusiastically welcome your children to school IN PERSON, every day, Monday through Friday
Find creative ways to make school comfortable with a mask mandate and other health protocols in place
Utilize supportive strategies such as reminders and motivators rather than punitive measures to help students to adhere to the mask mandate
Create outdoor learning spaces at each building where students can remove masks safely and regularly
Continue sanitation and health screening protocols to reduce the spread of illness at school
Support the social-emotional needs as well as the academic needs of students
Support students who miss school due to illness or quarantine to ensure that they remain academically sound
Provide regular updates to families and the community about changing rules and conditions related to Covid-19
Provide on-site Covid-19 testing for students upon parent request
Host vaccine clinics on school campuses
As parents, you can…
Respectfully advocate to the governor’s office on behalf of your child and our community through feedback forms available for public communication with Governor Brown.
Here is the link: https://www.oregon.gov/gov/Pages/share-your-opinion.aspx
Remember that for students, the mask mandate plus 3 feet distance greatly reduces the likelihood of quarantine
Remain positive when talking to your child about the requirement to wear a mask indoors at school
Talk with your healthcare provider about whether or not a Covid-19 vaccine is a good option for your child
Keep your child home if they present symptoms of illness
Communicate with the school if you suspect an exposure to Covid-19
Become familiar with the Department of Education’s guidance for schools regarding the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Here is the link: https://www.oregon.gov/ode/readyschools/Pages/default.aspx
Currently, the rule mandating masks in schools does not apply to extracurricular activities outside of school hours. The Athena-Weston School District has established the following protocols for middle and high school athletics:
Masks are optional for athletes in practices and competitions.
Masks are required for spectators at indoor events in order to protect athletes.
Testing is readily available to athletes to help reduce the impact of Covid-19 on teams.
Masks are required on buses as per federal mandate.
The district will monitor local conditions and adjust our health protocols for athletics as needed to ensure safety and to minimize the impact of Covid-19 on athletes and teams.
Again, I understand the frustration that the shift from masks as a parental option to masks as mandatory for all students caused for a lot of Athena-Weston School District families. I am happy to talk with you at any time about Covid-19 protocols in schools or to hear your concerns about the impact of this pandemic on your child. Our teachers are excited to begin the new school year IN PERSON. We need your support of our requirement to enforce what we hope is a temporary state indoor mask mandate at school so that teachers can focus on connecting and teaching rather than on mask enforcement. After losing eight months of full-time in-person learning that we cannot get back, we are ready and excited to stay focused together on our main priority: IN-PERSON school.
Ann Vescio, Interim Superintendent