UNION COUNTY — Five former members of school boards in Union County have differing views on Gov. Kate Brown’s school mask mandate.
The governor’s mandate, now in effect, requires students at all schools in Oregon to wear masks almost all of the time they are indoors at school as a safety precaution during the current spike in cases of COVID-19. The mandate took full effect on Thursday, Aug. 12, and since that point school districts not complying with the mandate can be fined $500 per violation.
Michael Frasier, who served on the La Grande School Board from 2007 to 2015, does not hesitate when asked about the mask mandate.
“If I were on the board I would vote to mask up,” said Frasier, a retired LHS choir teacher.
Frasier said some people think that because school boards have local control that they can do almost anything with regard to their school district. This is far from true since school boards must adhere to state mandates. The La Grande School Board, at its Aug. 4 meeting, voted to follow Brown’s mask mandate, a move Frasier lauded.
“The La Grande School Board made the right decision,” he said.
Bud Scoubes, a former member of the Elgin School Board, is not a a supporter of the mask mandate.
“I think it should be a parental decision,” said Scoubes, who served on the Elgin School Board for about 20 years before stepping down about a decade ago.
Scoubes believes that putting a mandate in place was the wrong thing to do.
“There will be many, many unforeseen ramifications with this mandate,” he said.
Steve Oliver, who previously was a member of the Union-Baker Education Service Board, shares a belief similar to Scoubes regarding the mask mandate.
“I think it should be up to the parents,” said Oliver, who served as Union County Sheriff for about 12 years through early 2005.
Oliver believes Brown is overstepping her bounds by imposing the mask mandate.
Former Cove School Board member Meg Moore also opposes the mask mandate. Moore believes school districts should decide if masks are required because they could tailor their COVID-19 safety rules to conform to their mask policy. For example, if a district were free to make masks optional and did so, it might keep students in smaller cohorts during the school day.
Moore, who drives a school bus for Mid Columbia Bus Company in the Cove School District, served on the school board for five years though about 2015.
Matt McElligott, who served on the North Powder School Board for eight years through mid-2017, is another foe of the mask mandate.
“I am definitely against it,” he said.
McElligott said science points to the negative impacts of mask wearing, physically and mentally. McElligott also said he believes that requiring children to wear masks could harm their development by inhibiting them during formative years when they should feel free to venture out and explore.
“I think that masks could cause long-term mental damage,” he said.