Portland Public Schools must mandate masks!
Portland Public Schools must mandate masks!
To Portland Public Schools Leadership:
As of July 26, 2021, both Washington and California are requiring masks in all K-12 schools, and both the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education strongly advise face coverings. And yet Portland Public Schools, after making the common sense decision to mandate masks for K-5 because of safety concerns, has failed to mandate masks for grades 9-12 for summer school. Therefore, we rise in support of our most vulnerable community members, including Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, who have suffered disproportionate harm during the global pandemic. We urge Portland Public Schools to immediately adopt a mask policy that values the safety and well-being of students, staff, and the greater community and aligns with its own Vision Statement, which maintains that it holds “racial equity and social justice as central tenets for all decisions and actions.” Following the recommendations in the Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework for the 2021-22 School Year, we demand that PPS require face coverings for all preK-12 students, staff, and indoor visitors regardless of vaccination status.
- Masks are effective at limiting transmission: Wearing face coverings is widely known to be one of the essential mitigation strategies that make in-person instruction safer. The American Academy of Pediatrics is advocating for all children ages 2 and up and staff to wear masks in schools in the fall. In addition, the University of Washington forecasts that universal masking in Oregon would put the new known cases number by Nov. 1 at about 19 per day compared to 1,600 without it, and a death rate at that time of one every 10 days compared to 50 deaths every 10 days without masking.
- Many people are still unvaccinated and need protection: Black, Native American, and Hispanic populations in Oregon are vaccinated at a much lower rate than white people. In addition, all children under 12 and those with specific medical conditions are unvaccinated. The actual percentage of all Oregonians who are fully vaccinated is only about 56%.
- There is no plan in PPS to verify who is or isn’t vaccinated: PPS is not requiring vaccinations nor are they requiring families to disclose vaccination status of students. In an email sent to staff on July 1st, Portland Public Schools stated that, “There will NOT be any verification of vaccine status.”
- Bullying concerns: Making mask wearing optional has parents and health experts concerned that bullying related to face coverings will become prevalent, which parallels mask-related aggression documented among adults.
- New variants are more contagious and can be carried and spread by vaccinated people: Even though the number of vaccinated people contracting COVID-19 is low, we believe in the importance of creating policy that protects every child and family. The World Health Organization (WHO) urges fully vaccinated people to continue to wear masks and practice other Covid-19 safety measures as the more infectious and 225% more contagious Delta variant spreads across the globe. Numbers of Covid cases attributed to the now dominant Delta strain are spiking, and many people who “recover” from Covid still suffer from long-haul neurological and psychiatric disorders. Infections among children are increasing as are numbers of children in ICUs, and cases in the U.S. and Oregon are rising rapidly.
- Many PPS buildings are in state of disrepair: PPS has large numbers of very old buildings that, even in the best of times, provoke serious concerns around health: infested with pests, windows that won’t open, classrooms too small to allow for proper distancing, poor circulation, etc. In addition, the fall fire season may require windows to be closed, limiting air flow, and thus reducing the major mitigation strategy of air flow. Therefore it is vital that we require other effective means like mask wearing to limit transmission.
We students, parents, teachers, and community members call on PPS to require face coverings for all preK-12 students, staff, and indoor visitors regardless of vaccination status. PPS’ Vision Statement states that “every person brings value and deserves to be treated with care, courtesy, and compassion.” This moment presents an opportunity for Portland Public Schools to operationalize and model equity and compassion for the most vulnerable children and other community members in our region.
Portland Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators (PCORE) & MxM Bloc