Baker School District students and parents won’t know until some time in August which COVID-19 rules will be in place when classes start Aug. 30.

District officials will meet later this week with the Baker County Health Department to discuss issues such as face masks, social distancing and dividing students into groups — cohorts — Lindsey McDowell, the school district’s public information and communications coordinator, said on Monday, July 26.

After that meeting, district administrators, including principals, will convene to talk about pandemic protocols, McDowell said.

The Baker School Board, which is slated to meet Aug. 5, also will discuss the upcoming school year. The district might not announce the policy until after the board meeting, McDowell said.

The district intends to have a full schedule of in-person classes for all grades — as was the case for the last six weeks or so of the previous school year.

The district will continue to offer online learning options as well.

As for COVID protocols, the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education on July 22 announced recommendations for the 2021-22 school year. McDowell points out, though, that those are recommendations, not mandates.

The state agencies recommend schools require students and staff for all grades, who are not vaccinated, to wear face masks while indoors.

But the Baker School District has used a less strict policy for its Summer Academy programs, McDowell said, requiring staff and students to wear masks only indoors and only when K-6 students are present (most of whom are younger than 12 and thus not eligible to be vaccinated). McDowell said the district does not plan to enforce any policy that has different standards for students or staff based solely on whether they’re vaccinated.

McDowell said that as of Monday the district has had only one positive COVID-19 case in the Summer Academy.

District officials will be considering keeping the cohort system in place, which aims to reduce interactions between groups of students. This means that a positive case might require only one group to quarantine at home, rather than an entire school, McDowell said.

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