Update posted at 10:30 a.m. July 30

The following statement has been issued by Oregon Moms.

Today Oregon Moms Union issued the following statement in response to Governor Brown's mandate forcing K-12 students to wear masks in the new school year:

"Governor Brown has once again moved the goalposts on Oregon students and parents," said MacKensey Pulliam, Oregon Moms Union Co-Founder. "One month ago, Kate Brown's OHA Director said it would be up to local authorities to slow the spread of COVID-19. Now she has reversed course yet again."

"When kids are the least at risk from COVID and least likely to spread it, they should absolutely not be singled out with a useless mandate," continued Pulliam. "This is simply a way for Governor Brown to give allies on some school boards political cover so they do not have to return schools to normal. These are our kids, not political footballs. Nothing short of a full, normal school year is acceptable."

Oregon Moms Union, formed earlier in 2021 in the wake of COVID-19 school shutdowns and distance learning, seeks to empower parents to advocate for a student-first K-12 education system. It currently has 45 volunteer School District Captains serving in 35 school districts.

Updated posted at 1:30 p.m. July 29

In response to Gov. Brown's order the have all students K-12 in Oregon to wear face coverings indoors in the new school year ahead, The Chronicle has received this updated response from the St. Helens School District.

"Earlier today, Governor Kate Brown directed the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education to create a rule to require masks indoors for K-12 schools statewide for the 2021-22 school year.

"At this time, we still anticipate that all SHSD students will have the opportunity to participate in a regular schedule of full time, in-person learning. As a district, we are reviewing the latest recommendations from the Governor, CDC, ODE, as well as working closely with local health officials and our school board to determine what is best for our students, staff, and community.

We thank you for your patience as we prepare for the upcoming school year. Please know that we are making every effort to bring all students back to the classroom while continuing to provide safety and security protocols to both our students and staff. We will share more details about health and safety protocols as we get closer to the start of school."

Previous Chronicle coverage posted at 10:30 a.m. July 29

Governor Kate Brown today directed the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education to create a rule to require masks indoors for K-12 schools statewide for the 2021-22 school year.

Indoor School Face Coverings

Gov. Kate Brown said the rule is necessary for the protection of all students, staff and school visitors.

The governor said the rule is in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recently updated guidance, and based on the latest science on the spread of the Delta variant.

“The science and data are clear: the Delta variant is in our communities, and it is more contagious,” Brown said. “My priority is to ensure our kids are able to safely return to full-time in-person learning this fall, five days per week and with minimal disruptions. With many children still ineligible to be vaccinated, masks are an effective way to help keep our kids safe in the classroom, the learning environment we know serves them best.

“In the meantime, as we ask Oregonians statewide to mask up in public indoor spaces, we will continue working hard to vaccinate more people so we can finally beat this virus once and for all. Vaccines remain the most effective and best way to protect ourselves and our families.”

School district reaction

School districts in Columbia County have yet to make official decisions about indoor mask wearing for the new school year. Earlier this week, The Chronicle reached out to St. Helens, Clatskanie and Rainier district administrators about the possibility of the mask requirement.

St. Helens School District spokesperson Stacey Mendoza told The Chief:

"We know that families have unanswered questions regarding mask mandates and social distancing," Mendoza said. "As a district, we are reviewing the latest recommendations from the CDC and ODE, as well as working closely with local health officials and our school board to determine what is best for our students, staff, and community. We will share more details about health and safety protocols as we get closer to the start of school."

"We have not made any changes to our mask decision that the Board adopted on July 14, Clatskanie School District Superintendent Cathy Hurowitz said. "We are waiting for the information and recommendations as well as recommendations from the Columbia County Health Department. We are in wait and see mode."

Rainier School District Superintendent Joesph Hattrick said the Rainier School District is planning for a return to in-person while remaining responsive to the Oregon Department of Educations Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance. Additionally, the Oregon Health Authority will continue to provide resources for schools, families, and students.

"During our board meeting on Monday it was discussed that we would strongly advise individuals on campus to wear masks, though not require it," Hattrick said "We are in the process of evaluating that information and discussing with stakeholders to make the most responsible and responsive decision possible. As our leadership team returns on Monday we will also be discussing reopening strategies and making that information available as soon as we have it. Unfortunately, with the CDC's announcement comes a snowball effect and are awaiting additional guidance from the state and ODE and will continue to keep families informed when changes impact their students."

Follow this developing story here online and in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.

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