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Masks to become optional at Portland, Salem, Beaverton schools once Oregon lifts mandate

Oregon is lifting the mask mandate for indoor public places and K-12 schools on March 12. It is one of the last states in the country to loosen mask guidance.

PORTLAND, Ore. — School district around Oregon have started announcing their plans for masks once Oregon lifts its mask mandate for indoor public places and K-12 schools on March 12. 

Masks will become optional for staff and students at Portland Public Schools (PPS), the state's biggest school district, and the Beaverton School District starting Monday, March 14. 

Salem-Keizer Public Schools, the state's second largest district, said masks will be optional in all district facilities starting March 12, including school buses and before-school and after-school programs and extracurriculars. 

After Oregon lifts its mask mandate on Saturday, it'll be up to every individual district to make their own decision whether they'll continue to require them. 

“From the beginning of this global pandemic, we’ve been guided by advice from public health experts, made adjustments based on new data and updated science, and applied what we’ve learned to guide our response to COVID-19,” said Jonathan Garcia, chief of staff at PPS.  

Last week, the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority released new guidelines for the state's schools regarding face masks, quarantine protocols and COVID-19 testing, citing declining case numbers along with hospitalizations projected to fall below pre-omicron levels. 

RELATED: Oregon releases new guidance for schools on masks, quarantine and COVID testing

"This is the time we feel we can safely make these changes without increasing the physical risk and spread of COVID,” said Oregon Health Officer and Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger.    

The guidance from the state includes pausing general contact tracing and quarantining in schools. 

In a press release on Friday, Portland Public said it will continue to require all those who are sick with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home for five days and return on day six if they've been fever free for at least 24 hours. They will also be encouraged to wear a mask for five days upon their return, the district said. 

“We understand that comfort levels on mask wearing will vary in our community,” said Garcia. “We plan on sharing resources to schools and families that help create a safe and welcoming environment for every student and staff member and one that honors individual decisions around COVID–19 safety, including the use of masks.” 

The district will also continue its weekly screening test program and school-based rapid testing for those who may become symptomatic while at school.

The Beaverton School District said in a note to families on March 7 that contact tracing and quarantining are no longer required, but parents and guardians are still asked to let schools know if their students test positive for COVID-19. 

In a letter to the Parkrose School District community, superintendent Michael Lopes Serrao said the school board plans to make a decision on masks during a meeting on March 7.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include Beaverton School District after it announced its decision on March 7.

RELATED: Portland educators worried about district's plan to cut teacher positions

 

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