State fines Adrian School District $10,500 over mask mess

Kevin Purnell at a school board meeting at Adrian High School for the last time as the Adrian School District superintendent on Monday, Aug. 30. (The Enterprise/FILE)

ADRIAN – The Adrian School District is facing a $10,500 fine from the state for its “willful” violation of the state’s mask mandate, according to citation records from Oregon OSHA.

The state agency issued the citation on Oct. 27 following a state inspection at Adrian schools in early September.

“At the time of the inspection, the employer did not ensure that all staff, students and visitors indoor [at] the school wore masks or face coverings. As evidenced by visual confirmation and employee interviews. Masks were visibly available in the schools but their use was not enforced,” according to the state citation.

OSHA also fined the school district $420 because monthly safety committee meetings weren’t be held, $420 because an exposure risk assessment wasn’t known to employees, and $100 for not keeping state forms documenting injuries or illnesses in the district.

The school district intends to contest the citation, district officials said.

OSHA inspectors arrived at the Adrian schools on Sept. 2 – four days after the Adrian School Board fired then-Superintendent Kevin Purnell as he tried to enforce the unpopular mask mandates. Purnell later accepted a $100,000 settlement from the school board.

The state fine on Adrian is the largest against any school district in Oregon over Covid-related violations.

Only one other district has been fined by OSHA. Grace Cascade Christian High School of Medford paid a $200 fine after it was cited in December 2020 for not enforcing the mask mandate and improperly conducting in-person classes, according to Aaron Corvin, public information officer for Oregon OSHA.

Investigations into Covid-related violations are continuing at six other school districts.

In Adrian, the district earlier this year balked at state mandates.

On Aug. 12, the school board said in a letter that “our district has been pretty vocal about pushing back against the sweeping state mandate that requires students and staff to mask while indoors.”

The letter said that “The Adrian School District, including its staff and administration, will not take any punitive measures or actions towards students or families who decline to wear a mask. We will work with parents and students to educate and understand what the requirements of the face covering mandate is in Oregon schools.”

On Sept. 8, after the district drew national attention over Purnell’s firing, the board issued another statement.

 “While many community members are not in agreement with that order, it is the law of the land,” read the letter. “Our goal from the pandemic’s beginning has been to find safe ways to get children in the classroom, where they thrive, and we understand that compliance with the order is a necessary part of keeping our schools open.”

Contact Editor Les Zaitz by email at [email protected].


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