Thursday, September 23, 2021

Othello schools seek control over masks, vaccinations

by Rachal Pinkerton, For the Columbia Basin Herald
| August 25, 2021 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — The Othello School Board voted Monday to send a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee asking him to restore local control to school districts and allow them to decide if masks and vaccinations should be required in their schools.

Washington is a local control state, allowing school boards to make decisions about education without daily interference from the state. But during COVID-19, the state has been dictating what schools can do regarding virus precautions.

The letter cited a lack of input from a majority of school boards regarding COVID-19 mandates.

“The state superintendent has frequently claimed to have ‘heard’ from many constituents and stakeholders including school districts,” it states. “Our board has never been contacted and has never been invited to participate in these discussions, nor have boards in many similar districts. We do not believe the feedback that OSPI (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) and your office are relying on is truly representative of all districts in the state. This leaves rural districts far away from Olympia feeling disenfranchised and disrespected.”

It also asked for better disclosure from the state and said Inslee should be an active listener, as well as maintain “consistent communication with locally elected officials.”

During the meeting, the board expressed a desire for other districts to use its letter as a template to send additional letters to the governor. A full version of the letter is available on the school district website under BoardDocs from Monday,