PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The superintendent of Salem-Keizer Public Schools discussed how the district is responding to the COVID-19 delta variant — and how it’s responding to disagreements over safety protocols.

With COVID-19 cases rising, the delta variant has only caused educators to reinforce the strict COVID-19 protocols. Salem Keizer Public Schools Superintendent Christy Perry said the district is committed to implementing all the health mandates issued by Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority, as well as being committed to helping students navigate them.

Although protocols will be in place, Perry says the surge of cases has elevated the stakes in Salem.

“It’s personally it’s made me more anxious, it’s made me more vigilant about wanting people to do the right thing with face coverings. I know there are lots of emotions around it, but I just want us to think about how we get kids back in classrooms,” Perry said. “Because [masks are] a layer of protection that protects our kids. I want it to not be a controversy.” 

Perry says masks have been particularly controversial within the Salem-Keizer community.

She says with the delta variant now posing a greater risk to kids, she is asking parents to support and follow the safety protocols — and not make it a divisive issue, but a public health issue. That way, educators can focus on teaching.

“We know that our kids are most excited to see us, and that reading, math, writing… all of that will come next,” Perry said. 

As far as mitigating spread with the return to in-person instruction, the superintendent tells KOIN 6 News educators are more worried about managing common spaces than they are about classroom spaces.

Perry says Salem-Keizer’s classrooms are set up to meet the three-feet distance requirement. However, the bigger worries are lunchrooms and gyms.

To navigate these tricky times, the school district will allow students to eat in classrooms and eat outdoors when the weather permits.

The Salem-Keizer School District won’t be holding any all-school assemblies in September in order to avoid large gatherings. Perry says they also will not be allowing any school visitors or volunteers in September because they want to limit the number of adults going in and out of the building.

“Our North Star is kids back in school, five days a week for in-person instruction, back in school and staying in school,” Perry said. “So, it’s essential that we come together as a community and support the health and safety protocols in our community, in our schools so that kids can remain in in-person instruction for the school year.”

Perry says the strict protocols at the beginning of the school year in September are part of an effort to respond to the rise of the delta variant. She hopes it will help get their school district through the spike within the community and that cases will begin to come back down to more manageable levels.