October 1, 2021

Dear Governor Brown,

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and for your continued work on behalf of all Oregonians. 

First, we appreciate your guidance that allowed students back in the classroom. The negative impact remote learning had on our students, especially those that struggled historically was heartbreaking. In-person learning not only creates stronger academic experiences it also supports the social and emotional wellbeing of the students.  We have already seen positive changes, firsthand, in the students in the short time they have been in the classroom.

However, we do not agree that decisions about masking and vaccination are best made at the statewide level. Our school district and community have worked diligently throughout this pandemic to keep students at the center of our discussions and our actions.

Governor Brown, we surveyed our community about what they thought was best for their children. We all agree it was to get all students back to in-person learning successfully. We were ready to debate the question of mask wearing and even vaccinations at the end of summer in a public forum. School boards have been doing this for years, always keeping our students’ wellbeing at the center of our decision making.

Your mask and vaccine mandates have effectively removed our ability to respond to the needs of our small community. At the local level, we have successfully managed our school district effectively and safely for decades and now, we are rendered unable to respond to our community. We have a strong, effective teaching staff and your order threatens to remove quality educators from our classrooms and children.

We are proud of the work we are doing in the Helix School District for our students and their families. Not only are we focusing on increasing our graduation rate, improving our students’ reading and math abilities, maintaining small class sizes, and hiring and retaining highly qualified educators and paraprofessionals, we have taken deliberate steps to build and maintain trust in our community via open and transparent feedback. This fall, we have become the enemy to many in our community and the trust we have built over the years has quickly evaporated. We are confident that this was not your intent, but it is the outcome all the same.

Please, Governor Brown, trust local school boards to make the decisions that are right for their own communities. Local control is the best way to serve all Oregonians.

Thank you for your consideration,

Helix School District Board of Directors