Grant County Court urges Governor to allow local control

By on Thursday, August 26th, 2021 in Eastern/Southeast Oregon News More Top Stories

CANYON CITY – The Grant County Court has issued a letter to Governor Kate Brown, requesting local control regarding school mask mandates as well as the vaccine requirements recently put into place. Find the letter below, from Grant County Judge Scott Myers and Commissioners Sam Palmer and Jim Hamsher:

“Dear Governor Brown: 

We have been approached, individually, and as a governing body, by numerous citizens, school administrators, teachers, staff members, and concerned parents regarding the school mask mandates and vaccine requirements recently put into effect. The majority of the people are urging the return to local control and we believe our school districts and health department are in a better position to decide what is right for our County. A one-size fits all approach is not the only answer to the pandemic. 

Local control was put in place in late June of 2021 and then taken away again in late July. This hardly seems like enough time to allow local governments to prove the system will work, however, during this time period Grant County only had 7 positive cases. Again, a blanket approach is not always the best answer, or in the best interests of all citizens. 

Grant County is a large, frontier county of over 4,500 square miles, with large geographic separation between our towns. Since March of 2020, each school district has followed the recommendations of our State and our Local Public Health Authority. When two districts had an outbreak of COVID-19 in their community, they immediately implemented distance learning, contact tracing, and followed the recommendations of our Health Department. The schools involved were over 60 miles apart so potential contact between the districts was minimal. 

If the vaccine mandate goes through as presented in relation to schools, our County will lose many school educators, support staff and volunteers. Our schools have several vacant positions that they have been unable to fill prior to the vaccine mandate. Losing additional school staff will make in-person education next to impossible. There are also many parents who are choosing not to enroll their children in school due to the current mask mandate, consequently state school funding which is based upon enrolled students will fall to such levels that our schools may not be able to survive. We would urge you to allow the option of either a vaccine, or weekly testing, for educators. 

Several teachers and parents have expressed concern about how the mask mandate affects children mentally and emotionally and how critical it is for a child to learn by hearing sounds correctly and seeing the movement of the mouth and tongue when making sounds. This is especially true for children with special needs and those with hearing loss. We understand the safety of our children is paramount, but so is their education and mental health. 

If the vaccine mandate goes through as presented in relation to health care workers, our County will lose many health care workers and support staff. Our local hospital struggles to fill vacant positions without a 

vaccine mandate and if we lose current health care workers, the safety of all of our citizens is in jeopardy. We have one hospital in our County, the nearest hospital, other than our local one, is 70 miles away. It is unfair to create a health care crisis in rural communities by mandating a vaccine. We would urge you to return to the option of either a vaccine, or weekly testing, for health care providers. 

Individuals should be able to make their own medical decisions and parents should be able to decide what is best for their children. It is not up to the government to decide what is best for an individual or their children regarding medical matters. 

The Grant County Court respectfully requests the return to local control for our school districts and our County. We have extremely educated people working in our schools and in our health care settings. We, as the governing body of Grant County, have the utmost faith that our educators and health care professionals have the ability and will make the correct decisions based on the health, safety and educational needs of our citizens.”