Dear Santiam Community,
First off, I hope you are enjoying your summer thus far. We have plenty of summer left to enjoy, but our planning for school in the fall is well underway. There have been some statewide changes since you last heard from me, so I wanted to update you on what we know and how we plan to operate school this fall. With that being said, we are well aware that mandates can change at any time, but for the time being, here is our general framework:
- Our overall goal for this coming school year is to establish a feeling of normalcy again in our schools. We want to offer all the pre-COVID opportunities and classes to students again, go back to our typical full day 4-day school week, operate athletics and clubs, allow for more interaction in PE and other learning opportunities, and allow more travel around campus and the cafeterias. We will not be offering a full time distance learning option this year, but we will still support students who we must exclude due to COVID symptoms or quarantine. We want kids to be kids and to get the educational/social/emotional experiences they had in schools as before. As much as we are working toward this end, we are also going to keep safety in mind to minimize COVID spread in our schools and keep students and staff safe.
- MASKS- Our intent is to make masks OPTIONAL for all staff and students, regardless of vaccination status. Masks may be worn, but they are not required. We will still keep a regular supply of them available for anyone who wants one. We do not intend to ask for vaccination status of our students or make operational decisions based on a student’s status. For bus riders, current federal law still requires all riders on public transportation to wear masks. We cannot change this, but if it were to change, we will let families know. Bus riders will need to wear masks while on the bus.
- WHAT WE WILL DO- We intend to continue with many of our cleaning, sanitation and handwashing protocols as we did last year. We developed some effective techniques this past year, and many will continue to help decrease germ spread in the schools. We were one of the first to get students back to school in our region and the leader in getting kids to school the longest each week, AND we didn’t have spread in our schools. Our custodial staff and others took this seriously and did a great job. We will also do our best to keep students distanced 3+ feet when we can. Distancing is helpful, but we will also allow cooperative group work and activities this coming year when it is essential to the learning or activity.
- WHAT YOU CAN DO- Continue to help us by keeping kids home when they are sick or have been exposed to COVID. We found that COVID did not spread through our schools, but it did sometimes spread through families. We will continue to exclude students with certain symptoms or who have been exposed to someone with COVID. The details of this are still being worked out and will be communicated once fully developed.
This is the general framework we are working toward for fall. If anything changes, I will keep you posted. At the moment, ODE and OHA have said that all the mandates of last year can now be decided locally. Additionally, the Linn County OHA, who also has the authority to mandate rules and/or shut in-person learning down if cases increase, have said that they are not going to impose any additional rules to Linn County schools at this time. I do want families to know that if outbreaks occur, OHA could mandate changes or we could locally make a short-term change to mask requirements and/or other requirements if it means doing so can keep us open to in-person instruction. This option will only be used when needed and we will communicate the need for changes and timelines to families if it were to happen.
For many, hearing that masks will not be required is good news, and it is a step in the right direction for getting back to normal and opening up previous opportunities. For some, this may be worrisome, but I want to emphasize to you and everyone that we are not taking COVID lightly or forgetting about it. We will continue to watch conditions daily and make any changes needed to keep our schools safe. Regardless of whether you wear a mask of not, we will ask that everyone help do their part to limit spread AND we will not tolerate the teasing or discrimination of anyone for their beliefs or mask status. We are in this together and STAND TOGETHER as a school community. I am confident in our community, staff and students that we can do this, and do it well.
It feels good to start moving forward and put last year behind us. We have been through a lot together, and we have a lot to look forward to!
Thank you and take care,