• PPS Will Keep Outdoor Mask Requirement in Place for Now

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     McDaniel High School

    Students at McDaniel High School's bleachers. (Photo by Beth Conyers)

    Dear PPS Families,

    Last week, Gov. Kate Brown and state officials announced that they are lifting the mask mandate for outdoor settings, with school districts given the option to do the same. For now, however, Portland Public Schools will continue to require masks in all settings, including outdoors, and we want to let you know how we came to that decision.

    After the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education gave schools the option to lift the outdoor mask requirement, our Health Advisory Panel met with national health experts and our local public health authority. Our conclusion: keeping an all-school mask mandate in place gives us the best chance to minimize COVID-19 transmission while maximizing classroom time for all students.

    Through a combination of mitigation efforts, masking and vaccines, we have been able to keep transmission low in PPS. This, in turn, has allowed us to take other measures to protect students and classroom time, such as the Test to Stay program that we are working to implement in January. We believe that lifting the outdoor mask mandate, at this time, carries more risk than reward.

    For example, under state guidelines, when students participate in outdoor recess without masks, if just one of those students tests positive for COVID-19, all students who were on the playground, within a certain distance from that individual, could potentially have to quarantine and miss out on the in-person classroom experience, as would other students and school staff who had exposure.

    At this time, we know every in-classroom experience is so valuable after a year of distance learning. We believe vaccination remains the most effective method to keep students and staff safe from COVID-19 and urge all who are eligible to be vaccinated or receive a booster. Test to Stay is intended for unvaccinated, asymptomatic individuals in a school setting where universal masking is fully in place.

    This decision is by no means permanent, and we will continue to monitor the data, consult experts and watch if the emerging Omicron variant of COVID-19 becomes a factor here in Oregon.

    Thank you for your continued patience and understanding.