Dear St. Paul Community,
I am excited to share the following information with you regarding a time for optional mask wearing in our schools and at activities and events. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has announced lifting mask requirements for indoor public spaces and Oregon’s schools on March 19. Following spring break, masks will become optional in St. Paul Schools. Earlier this month, OHA announced that the K-12 mask rule would be lifted on March 31. Current modeling from Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) indicates that hospitalizations will fall below 400 or fewer Oregonians per day by March 19, a level the state experienced before the arrival of the Omicron variant in Oregon.
Over the past several days, Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and OHA have been engaging with local school and public health officials. These officials expressed a strong need to keep alignment between the dates for lifting the statewide face-covering expectations in the K-12 settings with the lifting of the general indoor public spaces masking requirement. In addition, school and district leaders confirmed they can thoughtfully prepare for this transition by March 19 and take necessary actions to ensure students can safely remain in classrooms. It is important to continue implementation of indoor face coverings in schools until March 19 to help Oregon fully overcome its largest COVID-19 surge brought on by the Omicron variant. OAR 333-019-1015 will remain in effect until March 19, 2022.
St. Paul has had a long tradition of supporting its schools, our students, their parents, our staff, and the school board. In the past, we have always found a way to come together in support of one another. Recent events that have occurred in our high school and at public meetings have raised my level of concern over the current conditions of the climate and culture of our schools, their strong academic, activity, and athletic programs, and of this great district. Working through the challenges of the Covid crisis has created a level of stress and anxiety in our schools and among our community. We welcome productive discourse, shared communication, and hearing from our community on all topics related to your schools. We also have policies and procedures that guide the work of our organization. Recently I have witnessed a disregard for these rules that help promote who we are as a community. My hope is that with the relief brought about from the removal of required masking that we can begin to return to a more normal environment in our schools, fully supporting one another; as has been our long tradition here in St. Paul.
Joseph M. Wehrli
St. Paul School District