Health & Education
Willamina, Sheridan plan full-time, in-person instruction for fall
By Danielle Harrison
Smoke Signals staff writer
WILLAMINA -- Local schools are gearing up to welcome students back to campus for in-person learning this fall amid the Oregon Health Authority’s new statewide rule requiring masks in all indoor school settings, both public and private, for all individuals 2 years of age and older.
The rule will include all students, staff, contractors, volunteers and visitors. Previously, the Health Authority had planned to leave the decision up to individual school districts, but that was amended Aug. 2 due to the sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases due to the highly contagious Delta variant.
Schools that violate the rule are subject to a $500 fine per violation per day. Students are not required to wear masks while participating in indoor sports during physical education classes, although individual school districts can require mask usage in those situations. Masks also will not be required in non-school sites such as in the district office or settings such as school board meetings.
In the Willamina School District, where a majority of Grand Ronde Tribal members and descendants attend, classes will look much the same as last spring before COVID-19 arrived. The district plans to offer full-time, in-person learning five days a week.
If school is closed due to the pandemic, the district will revert to distance learning and each student will be provided with a technology device. The first day of school is Monday, Aug. 30.
“We will adhere to the mask mandate and require everyone to wear masks as outlined in the mandate,” Superintendent Carrie Zimbrick said. “P.E. (mask wearing) is dependent on the activity. Masks can be removed for activities where strangulation is a hazard. Masks are not required for any after-school activities, including sports. After-school activities are considered voluntary so people can make a personal choice regarding face coverings.”
In the Sheridan School District, students also will attend full-time, in-person classes. The first day of school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students is Tuesday, Sept. 7. There will be a freshman orientation that day at Sheridan High School from to 11 a.m., and noon to 3 p.m. for sophomores since they didn’t have one last year.
Wednesday, Sept. 8, is the first day of school for juniors and seniors.
Superintendent Dorie Vickery said that masks will not be required for after-school activities such as sports.
“Right now masks are required for all staff and students during the school day, but I am advocating for local control for that decision,” she said. “The majority of our health and safety protocols from last year are now under local control.”