VALE – After new guidance from the Oregon Department of Education which allows for greater local control over Covid restrictions, the Vale School Board has set new, looser protocols for the district.

They include recommending but not requiring face coverings for students and staff and providing them free Covid testing. And students will no longer be kept in cohorts. Such groupings have been kept separate in recent months.

The Vale School Board approved the changes Thursday.

Superintendent Alisha McBride said the new protocols were “effective immediately.” 

“The protocols that were adopted by the board of directors will allow us to plan for a near-normal school year for instruction and activities,” she said. 

The Vale board met for the first time with a change in members that now includes Chair Michael McGourty, Vice Chair Jason Chamberlain, Darlene McConnell, Jason Johnson, and Ryan Bates.

McBride said that efforts were also underway to “ensure effective ventilation and improve the air quality in schools” as directed by the board. 

“We are currently upgrading the heating and cooling systems in Vale Elementary School grade level classrooms to improve air quality,” she said. “We will also encourage staff to keep doors and windows open, when feasible, to increase air flow. Ventilation systems will be utilized to increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible. System filters will be checked frequently to ensure proper functioning of the systems.”

“Our goal was just to return school back to as normal as we possibly could while following the guidelines and recommendations that we had in front of us,” said Chamberlain. “Ultimately, the goal was get kids back in school and with their best interest at heart. We were kind of all on the same page.”

One thing that is not forecasted to change next year is protocol for when a student or staff member becomes sick with Covid.

“Protocols for quarantine did not become advisory, and schools are still required to follow quarantine and isolation protocols,” said McBride. “As a result, there may be instances during the 2021-2022 school year in which in-person instruction is temporarily paused and online instruction becomes necessary.”

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.

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