October 28, 2021

Syltel Lovely

Singularly Lovely Education

What if My Child Won’t Wear a Mask at School?

Oregon is getting closer to school restarting, and many children are looking forward to being back in their classrooms with their friends. However, COVID-19 is still a contributing factor to the safety of everyone’s children, which is why Governor Kate Brown has reinstated a mask mandate for all schools. 

According to an article in the Oregonian“students who consistently refuse to wear masks in school will be sent home with a laptop to learn virtually.” It’s of utmost importance to let your child know this, because if they’ve hated virtual learning with a class of their friends, they will hate it even more alone. 

There is a litany of posts on the popular online community Reddit about teachers who don’t wear masks in class, and if you’re a parent that may be very concerning to you. In Oregon, a teacher consistently refusing to wear a mask “might get a public letter of reprimand from the state agency that licenses teachers.” And if a principal doesn’t enforce these regulations, it could cost the school district thousands in fines every day. 

If you’re asking yourself if this mask mandate at your school is legal, then remember that Brown directed all state agencies – which includes all public schools – to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to return to wearing masks as students return to school. That ruling came down on July 29 – prior to Brown’s August 16 letter to all superintendents and school boards to honor the mask mandates. 

Brown wrote, “One of the small mercies of this pandemic was that children did not seem as susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19 from the original strain of the virus. The frustrating reality is that the virus has mutated, and so we must again adapt our strategies to protect Oregon’s kids. The spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has changed everything. Cases and hospitalizations are at all-time highs in Oregon. Children are now becoming severely ill and requiring hospitalization in higher numbers.” 

This call for concern is backed up by the fact that an infant was one of the six people in Oregon to die of COVID-19 on January 17. By April of 2021, the number of people aged 10 to 19 who tested positive had grown by 50% – a trend happening nationwide. 

Protecting Your Child in School 

The Corvallis School District has put together a comprehensive plan for air quality – a major concern as we consider having children go into an enclosed classroom setting again. The goal is to limit the number of people in each building along with adhering to mask and social distancing guidelines. Additionally, they will focus on increasing fresh air in every classroom and improving air filtration systems. 

In every school in the district, a maximum supply of fresh air from outside will be used. This fresh air will begin one hour prior to students arriving and continue for one hour after students leave for the day. Temperatures will be maintained at 70 degrees while students are in the building and 68 degrees for the hours prior to and directly after students are there. 

All air quality equipment will be checked by maintenance staff twice a month. To increase air quality and flow, windows can be opened while students are present, provided the classrooms remain at least 68 degrees. 

All Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system filters will be MERV-11. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, and is the standardized rating system for HVAC filters. A MERV-11 should block 65% to 79% of air particles within the 1.0 to 3.0 micron size range, and 85% or more of particles in the 3.0 to 10.0 micron size. Viruses range from 0.1 to 0.3 microns.  

Looking at Each Corvallis School 

Each school in the district has been carefully inspected, with individual plans for each laid out. Here are the basics on the air filtration for each school. Use the links provided to see the full plan for your school. 

Adams Elementary School – “All classrooms have ventilation systems that supply fresh outside air. Air circulates through the room, is then drawn into ducting and exhausted outside by a fan on the roof. Air is not shared between classrooms. The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by facilities. Classrooms 1-13 have ventilator fans that are controlled in the room and must always be on.” 

Cheldelin Middle School – “There are ventilation zones. Each zone has a HVAC unit that provides air to multiple rooms. The HVAC unit takes fresh outside air, filters, and supplies to the room. Part of the air is then exhausted outside and the rest returned to the supply, filtered and recirculated. The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by Facilities” 

Corvallis High School – “There are ventilation zones. Each zone has a HVAC unit that provides air to multiple rooms. The HVAC unit takes fresh outside air, filters, and supplies to the room. Part of the air is then exhausted outside and the rest returned to the supply, filtered and recirculated. The HVAC is connected to motion sensors in each room. When the space is occupied, the HVAC will continually circulate air. When unoccupied, it will turn off ventilation to the room to save energy. The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by Facilities.”  

Crescent Valley High School – “There are ventilation zones. Each zone has a HVAC unit that provides air to multiple rooms. The HVAC unit takes fresh outside air, filters, and supplies to the room. Part of the air is then exhausted outside and the rest returned to the supply, filtered and recirculated. The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by Facilities.” 

Franklin Elementary School – “All classrooms have individual ventilation systems that supply fresh outside air and filter existing air before recirculating. Air exhausts from the building passively through windows, doors and leaks in the building construction. Air is not shared between classrooms. The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by facilities. Classrooms have ventilator fans that are controlled in the room and must always be on.” 

Garfield Elementary School – “All classrooms have individual ventilation systems that supply fresh outside air and filter existing air before circulating. Air circulates through the room, is then drawn into ducting and exhausted outside by a fan on the roof. Air is not shared between classrooms. The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by facilities. The fan is controlled in the room. Staff should always have the fan on.” 

Harding Elementary School – “Classrooms utilize a common rooftop HVAC unit that supplies 100% fresh outside air, filters, heats as needed, and supplies to the room. Air circulates through the room, then exhausts from the building passively through windows, doors and leaks in the building construction. Air is not shared between classrooms. The temperature and air mixture is controlled on site facilities.” 

Husky Elementary School – “There are five main ventilation zones. Each zone has a HVAC unit that provides fresh outside air, filters, heats as needed, and supplies to the room. Part of the air is exhausted outside and the rest returned to the supply, filtered and recirculated. The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by Facilities.” 

Jaguar Elementary School – “All classrooms have individual ventilation systems that supply fresh outside air and filter existing air before circulating. Air circulates through the room, is then drawn into ducting and exhausted outside by a fan on the roof. Air is not shared between classrooms. The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by facilities. The fan is controlled in the room. Staff should always have the fan on.” 

Lincoln Elementary School – “There are several different ventilation system designs throughout the school. Most rooms utilize a common rooftop HVAC unit that provides fresh outside air, filters then recirculates existing air. Other rooms such as 123 and 124 have operable windows that can be used to introduce fresh air and increase ventilation. The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by facilities. The fan is controlled in the room. Staff should always have the fan on.” 

Linus Pauling Middle School – “There are ventilation zones. Each zone has a HVAC unit that provides fresh outside air, filters, heats or cools as needed, and supplies to the room. Part of the air is then exhausted outside and the rest returned to the supply, filtered and recirculated. The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by Facilities.” 

Mt View Elementary School – “All classrooms have ventilation systems that supply fresh outside air. Air circulates through the room, is then drawn into ducting and exhausted outside by a fan on the roof. Air is not shared between classrooms (Rooms 9-12 share air). The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by facilities. The fan is controlled in the room. Staff should always have the fan on.” 

Wildcat Elementary School – “Classrooms utilize a common rooftop HVAC unit that supplies 100% fresh outside air, heats as needed, and supplies it to the room. Air circulates through the room, is then drawn into ducting and exhausted outside by a fan to the roof. Air is not shared between classrooms. The temperature and air mixture is controlled remotely by facilities. The counselor’s office and Room 26 have poor ventilation and should avoid being used by multiple people.” 

COVID Symptoms 

As your child returns to the classroom, watch for COVID-19 symptoms: 

  • Cough 
  • Fever of 100 degrees or more 
  • Chills 
  • Shortness of breath / Difficulty breathing 
  • Loss of taste or smell 
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle or body aches 
  • Headache 
  • Sore throat 
  • Nasal congestion / Runny nose 
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea 

These could be symptoms of other illnesses – and most parents know how quickly children spread illnesses in school, but don’t let that stop you from getting your child tested for COVID. If you disregard an illness thinking it’s something minor and your child ends up in the hospital or worse, you will regret it. 

The Oregon Health Authority has a website dedicated specifically to when and where to be tested.  

By Sally K Lehman