Dear Coos Bay School Community,
Since December, we have seen a dramatic increase in COVID cases in our county and state. As of yesterday’s report, all counties in the state remain in the high category of community spread. The good news is that over the last few weeks, we have seen a decline in both COVID cases and hospitalizations. The projected data, if the decline continues at current rates, is that our case numbers and hospitalizations will be down below where they were prior to the latest surge.
Current data models and trends led to the Oregon Health Authority announcing last Monday that they are prepared to lift the indoor mask mandate by March 31st. For that to happen, the decline in cases and hospitalizations must continue. The State indoor mask mandate and the requirements from the Oregon Department of Education all remain in effect and will continue until the Oregon Health Authority officially lifts the mandate. This means that students, staff, and community members are required to wear a mask when in our schools.
I would like to address some of the comments I hear about why we just don’t stand up as a district and reject the State mandates. I’ve explained in the past that if we were to do that, we would be jeopardizing essential funding for our district. Just recently a small district in Oregon made the declaration that they were no longer going to follow the State-wide mandates. That district is facing over $100,000 in fines in addition to having their $250,000 federal relief funding frozen by the Oregon Department of Education. Some of you may think that doesn’t seem like a lot of money. That district is very small. In our district, the federal relief funding for the next few years totals close to $13 million. There are indeed financial implications to not following State mandates and Oregon Department of Education requirements. In addition, we have dramatically slowed the spread of COVID within our schools and been able to maintain in-person education.
I realize that everyone is tired of COVID-19 and all that comes with it. The past two years have been extremely difficult for our students, staff, families, and community. This week, the Oregon Health Authority showed us all some positive light at the end of the tunnel. I will be working with our Board of Directors and district leadership to develop a transition plan for when the mask mandate is projected to be lifted. Please help us all get to that point by continuing to follow the safety protocols. We need those case numbers to continue to come down. Parents, please do not send your students to school without a mask. They will not be allowed in class without one. We have been following that mandate for almost two years and our kids have been doing an amazing job. We must continue until the mandate is lifted. Let’s work together to make sure we get to that positive light and some relief this Spring. We all need it!
Coos Bay Public Schools