Canby School Board Will Not Defy Governor’s Mandates — But Insists Local Control Be Returned

A sometimes divided Canby School Board on Monday came together to share a unanimous message: Officials will not defy the governor’s latest coronavirus mandates — but they will continue to push her to return authority for those decisions to the local superintendents and directors where they feel it belongs.

Canby had, in July, been one of the only Portland metro area school districts to announce it would make mask wearing optional for students and staff when it reopened for in-person learning this fall.

These plans were upended a couple weeks later when Brown, amid an unprecedented surge in new cases and hospitalizations driven by the highly contagious delta variant, yanked back local control over masks and imposed a statewide indoor mandate.

In the board’s response, which was signed by all seven members and read by Vice Chair Tom Scott during Monday’s meeting, officials said they would not defy the governor’s mandates (which might result in hefty fines to the district and other penalties for educators who refuse to comply), but would continue to “advocate for local control of decision-making on health and safety protocols for our schools, so we can serve our community’s specific needs.”

“The Canby School Board recognizes its duty to uphold the laws of the State of Oregon and hereby formally requests a return to local control for decision-making on all Covid-19 health and safety protocols,” the statement read. “The district successfully followed all protocols to protect students, staff, and school communities prior to this statewide mandate.

“This board remains committed to ensuring our students are in school for face-to-face instruction, five days per week for the entire school year. We will work in conjunction with our superintendent, administrators, staff and local public health authority to provide safe and quality instruction to our students.”

The letter concluded by asking community members to join the board by contacting state and county leaders to ask for local control and decision-making to be returned.

The Aug. 23 work session — the board’s first meeting since Brown’s mandate was announced — was held virtually and did not draw the flood of angry comments that might have been expected (and which did occur during a recent Clackamas County Board of Commissioners meeting in which residents were invited to speak against statewide mask and vaccine mandates).

While some parents and community members did indeed protest the state-mandated coronavirus guidelines, others asked not only that the rules be followed, but that even be more done to ensure students — the youngest of whom are not eligible for the vaccine — stay healthy and schools stay open throughout the year.

Specifically, several parents asked that the district use alternate arrangements for lunch — and outdoor spaces if possible — to ensure students can maintain safe physical distance while unmasked.

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