VALE — On Sept. 8, the Vale School Board of Directors met for its monthly meeting, which was held in the Vale Elementary School cafeteria. During the meeting, the board conversed over a plethora of issues, including approval of bills, staff resignation acceptance, hire approvals possible upgrades to district grounds and the COVID-19 situation. The conversation about COVID, mask mandates and isolation policies consisted of a large portion of the meeting, between the board’s conversation and the public comments.
For public comment, speakers are limited to three minutes per person, or five minutes if they are representing a group of patrons, in addition to other requirements.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, a Vale citizen said he was disappointed in the board, and claimed that there is a double standard, regarding wearing masks.
He added, “What’s good for the students, is good for the board.”
A separate Vale citizen had mentioned that she is upset that the students are suffering due to the mask mandate.
Laney Cummings, a junior at Vale High School, gave her statement towards the end of the public comment portion of the meeting. She expressed her worry and fear for similar restrictions from the 2020 school year, such as school closures, online schooling, and restricted sport seasons — or no season at all. Cummings said that she is worried about school closures, because she believes that it may lead to social isolation, depression and other mental illnesses.
She stated that while she might not like wearing a mask, if it meant staying in school, she would.
After the public comments, board member Darlene McConnell had asked Superintendent Alisha McBride if Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Association or Oregon Department of Education is tracking student cases. McBride responded, saying that ODE does tracks student cases. She also said that she meets with ODE once a week, if not more.
Additionally, Chairman Michael McGourty was interested in what percentage of the staff is vaccinated. McBride replied, stating that she did not currently have those numbers, due to the staff not having to prove vaccination until the Oct. 18 deadline.
McBride had mentioned, prior to the school year in a letter to the community, that Vale Schools would be able to choose whether they wore a mask. However, she reiterated at the board meeting that when they had issued that statement, Malheur County’s COVID cases were a lot tamer than now. She also said if the district had open control of the situation, she would be advocating for students to be wearing masks, in order to provide the students a safe environment for studies and athletics.