Fourth grade teacher Stephanie Madison works with student Jacob Class on the first day back to in-person school for fourth and fifth grade students at Myers Elementary School on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Teachers could also face penalties for working umasked, the agency said, though it did not detail specific sanctions.
State officials will begin enforcing the mask rule Aug. 12.
The education department released guidelines Tuesday afternoon detailing the rules governing mask wearing at K-12 schools across the state. The announcement comes after Gov. Kate Brown on July 29 ordered masks be worn at all Oregon K-12 schools for the 2021-22 school year. She directed state agencies to draft specific policy.
The public announcement came after a call between state education officials and school administrators Monday where many superintendents objected to the loss of local control.
Education officials said a statewide mandate is needed because of surging rates of new Covid infections across Oregon, largely among people who have not been vaccinated against the virus. They said schools need a statewide rule because children are required by law to attend, unlike other public settings Oregonians can avoid if they're fearful of contracting Covid.
Children under age 12 cannot be vaccinated against Covid, meaning virtually all elementary school students are unvaccinated.
The Oregon Health Authority will review the need for a mask mandate in schools at least monthly, the rule says.
Salem-Keizer School District administrators are holding informational sessions with time to answer questions about Covid protocols and the fall return to school on Aug. 4 and 6 on Zoom from 6-7 p.m. More information and links to join the meetings are available on the district website.
This article was updated to clarify that enforcement of the mask rule begins Aug. 12.