ALSEA, Ore. -- A superintendent in rural Benton county is speaking out after he gained national attention for a letter he sent parents regarding Governor Kate Brown’s mask mandate.
Marc Thielman, the superintendent of the Alsea School District, said he was trying to show parents who had expressed concerns about their children's abilities to wear a mask in the classroom throughout the school day other options.
“We need to deal with individual students and families at the individual level and then we need to communicate if there are going to be accommodations so that other kids know that everybody has different needs,” Thielman said.
He said the majority of parents in his district oppose the mandate and as many as one-third of them had reached out to him with concerns about their children covering up in the classroom.
Thielman's letter to the school community pointed them to the part of the mandate stating the following.
“Nothing in this rule is intended to prohibit a school from complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” section 6 of the mandate states.
Thielman went on to say any parents who wish to request an accommodation for their children could apply for a 504 plan or request accommodations through the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).
However, he claimed the district has not seen a significant uptick in the number of requests for accommodation.
"We have not had a tsunami of 504s," Thielman said. "Most parents, they understand and have a lot of confidence in our ability to keep kids safe because we did it all last year.”
Thielman said he expects 10% to 15% of students in his district to require accommodations.
Some examples of accommodations, according to Thielman, were replacing a mask with a face shield, adding additional Plexiglas barriers between students, and offering additional, outdoor mask breaks.
Thielman said it's not fair to associate him with others throughout the country who are actively fighting mask mandates.
“They associated me with people who are genuinely touting mask mandates like the governor of Louisiana or something and I don’t think that was fair because we’re implementing the mandate. We’re requiring masks,” Thielman said.