Gary Carpenter

Hello FRSD families

This week we have had a significant increase in the number of known positive COVID cases in the District, in particular among staff at VES.  We are working on trying to stop the spread of COVID within the school community so that we can continue to offer in-person learning to all of our students.  

Your assistance in the effort to slow the spread in our classrooms is needed:

  • Please do not send your child to school if they are sick. 
  • Masking in schools can also be helpful in slowing the spread of illness. 
  • Please talk with your child to decide if masking is an option for your family.  

With upcoming events in all of our buildings (talent shows, book fairs, and more…) there will be a great opportunity to show your effort by practicing social distancing and mask-wearing.  A little extra effort today may mean the difference between in-person learning or online learning in the coming few weeks. 

We have made it this far without losing a single day of in-person instruction in the 21-22 school year.  Your help and support is needed.   

Thank you for your ongoing effort and support of our school community.


Over the course of the last several weeks, in conjunction with our administrators, certified and classified leadership teams, the district has been working on an updated visitor/volunteer plan.  It is a challenge to incorporate a plan that meets the needs of everyone, while staying in compliance with OAR 333-019-1030 .

The plan was presented to the school board last night for feedback and we are now ready to share with the community.  The new plan, with some requirements, allows a path for both visitors and volunteers in the schools, vaccinated and unvaccinated.

The plan is posted under the 2021-22 School year tab.  We will begin this on Monday the 25th! The direct link can be accessed by clicking here.  If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to the District Office, or your building administrator.

classified we make it work with classClassified Employee Appreciation Week is celebrated every year during the first full week of March.

Our classified employees are the backbone of our public education system and here in Fern Ridge we have countless examples of excellent Classified Staff members.  Our classified staff work directly with students, educators, parents, volunteers, business partners, and community members.  They support the smooth day to day operation of offices, the safety and maintenance of buildings and property, and direct instruction of students.

Our community depends upon and trusts classified employees to serve the diverse talents and needs of our students.

On behalf of the Fern Ridge School District School Board and all staff in the district, I want to thank our classified staff for their dedication and the work they do each and every day.  You are appreciated.  Please join me in observing and recognizing the hard work of these individuals!

Gary Carpenter, Superintendent, FRSD 28J

Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, FRSD has followed all requirements set forth by both OHA and ODE.  On Wednesday, ODE released an update to the COVID health and safety protocols school districts in Oregon are expected to follow beginning on March 12th, the date the mask mandate ends in Oregon for K-12 schools.  Beginning the 12th, the vast majority of COVID mitigation guideline decisions will happen at the local level.

While the District will put out more specific and detailed information prior to the 12th, for now, a brief summary of the new guidelines that FRSD will follow, are listed below:

  • Contract tracing is no longer required:  FRSD will not require it.
  • Students who are exposed will not need to quarantine if exposed, unless symptomatic:  FRSD will follow this.  We are still working on the best way to provide notification to parents when their child has been exposed at school.
  • Students and staff who test positive, or become symptomatic after an exposure, must isolate:  FRSD will follow this exclusion requirement.
  • Testing:  We will continue to offer testing to families that request it.
  • Masks are no longer required for staff or students at school or on buses:  FRSD will will not require them.

If you have questions or concerns about the new guidelines, please feel free to contact me at 541-935-2253 or  A complete update/graphic is in the works that outlines all critical information and will be released soon.

Please remember that there are still some staff and students who will choose to wear a mask within the school setting.  We will respect EVERYONE’S choice and as a District will not tolerate anything short of full support for this choice, as the state mandate is now lifted.

To those that have continued to show grace and patience throughout the pandemic, your support is appreciated.  Our GOAL remains the ability to continue to provide in-person instruction daily while keeping staff and students healthy and at school!  THE SINGLE BIGGEST THING OUR FAMILIES CAN DO TO HELP SUPPORT THIS GOAL IS TO REMAIN HOME WHEN SICK!

We all are looking forward to a return to something more normal, while remaining vigilant to ensure instruction is not impacted in the months to come.

Gary E. Carpenter, Jr. Superintendent, FRSD

Good afternoon Fern Ridge families,

This past Thursday, the Oregon Department of Health and the Oregon Department of Education shared updates to the spread of COVID-19 in our state and a new timeline for removing the statewide indoor mask mandate.

Beginning March 19, the universal mask requirement for all public indoor spaces, including K-12 schools will be lifted.

From the onset of the pandemic, FRSD schools have relied upon the guidance and expertise of our state health authority and state partner agencies as the experts in response to this health crisis. This continues today, with the newest announcement.

Beginning March 19, FRSD schools will welcome and strongly advise face coverings, but will no longer require them in district schools and facilities. Our district leaders are working to support a welcoming environment in all of our school locations so that we normalize mask wearing for those students, families, and situations where desired or required (such as following a confirmed exposure to COVID-19, in a health room when ill, or transportation–if this Federal requirement is extended).

There are still many details and processes left to be determined to implement this change, in large part due to updates expected early next week regarding requirements that schools will need to follow around quarantining and contact tracing. We also are working on updating our visitor and volunteer protocols to be more in-line with the current health conditions (stay tuned). We will share additional details as they are finalized as we approach this date. For today, we are focused on three important items:

  1. Masks and other health protocols are still required until March 19.
  2. Students and families wishing to make a change to their educational model – ex: from online instruction to in-person, or vice versa will need to follow the existing transfer/enrollment processes and will be accommodated when possible, at the natural transition points, or as space allows.  The earlier you communicate any possible change, the better.
  3. It is encouraging to hear that the Oregon Health Authority remains confident in the declining impact of COVID-19 on our day-to-day activities.

Throughout the past two years, we have all become accustomed to perpetual changes.  This change in protocol is another example of this, and we know that it is likely to surface a multitude of emotions. Please know that our school staff continues to be available to support the needs of your student.


Gary Carpenter, Superintendent FRSD 28J

The only thing that is consistent, is that things consistently change.  Earlier this morning, ODE released a memo regarding masking.  The  memo can be read at this link:

This memo was a result of a new OHA update released this morning, that can be read here:

To summarize:

  • The requirements for masking in indoor public places AND Oregon schools will now end on March 19th. 
  • In regards to schools, after March 19th, the decisions fall on “local authorities.”
  • The change is due to a continued rapid decline in hospitalizations due to COVID-19.
  • The District is still waiting for updates to “safety protocols for quarantine, contract tracing, and testing that meet the current conditions of the pandemic.” The ODE memo states that these updates will be released “early next week.”
  • If these updates are in fact released early next week, I am hopeful we will be able to review them relatively quickly and come up with our plan here in Fern Ridge moving forward.  We are currently working on various options that could address a range of circumstances and requirements, but we will not be able to finalize these plans until we have an opportunity read the requirements.

I will continue to provide updates here, any time we receive new information.


The district continues to investigate this issue, and hopes to make a final decision by Friday, March 11th so our families have time to prepare (although a decision could come sooner).  As was mentioned in the last website update on this topic on February 14th, since the beginning of the pandemic we have strived to protect in-person instruction for our students/families, and followed local and state requirements.    If the recommendation of OHA is to strongly advise and not require, then that is what I expect I will implement here in Fern Ridge.  We will strongly advise, not require

Why can’t we just make a decision today?  The single biggest reason is that Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) have not provided final guidelines regarding what the quarantine/isolation/contract tracing requirements are that schools will be REQUIRED to follow.  A meeting was to occur late yesterday between ODE and the superintendents around the state to provide an update, but that meeting was delayed.  For example, we currently have every staff member vaccinated (without a doubt that has allowed us to maintain in-person instruction throughout the school year), and a high percent of our teachers have received a booster, and are thus “Up to Date”.  The current OHA/ODE requirement is that if a staff member is “up to date” on their vaccination that they do not have to isolate/quarantine when they are a “close contact” unless they become ill.  If that were to change, and in an environment that has “optional masking,” staff members were required to quarantine regardless of vaccination status, then it would essentially stop in-person instruction.  We would not be able to provide a consistent in-person option.

Conversations have occurred at every building on this topic over the last week or two to gather staff input.  I have a meeting this afternoon with association leadership to discuss this as well.  We are on track and slowly getting prepared for a possible change.  A couple things to note:

  • The requirement for masks on transportation is a Federal one, that is set to expire March 18th.  If it is extended, and our district goes to an optional masking environment, masks will still be required on the school bus.
  • If we go to an optional masking environment, there may be some instances where masks ARE still required for staff and students.  For example:  In the health room when a student is experiencing symptoms.
  • Finally, in an optional masking environment, FAR more students will be required to quarantine, as any student that is not-vaccinated, or any staff member who is not “Up to Date” will need to quarantine/isolate.  This will require us to really focus and double down on all of our other safety protocols, such as hand washing, ventilation system effectiveness, distancing, cohorting, etc..  The single biggest help however, has always been, and will continue to be, staying home if you are sick!

I will continue to provide updates as we get more information.  As always if you have questions, or would just like to share your thoughts, feel free to reach out.

This post is intended to provide our community with an update on the processes that will be undertaken between now and the end of March, prior to coming to a decision regarding making masking optional in our schools.  First, to those in the community frustrated with the continued mask requirements in public schools and the ongoing response to the pandemic, and the burdens placed on our children: We hear you! Many district employees not only empathize with this position but fully support it.  To those in the community with concerns regarding making masking optional, and the reduction of any of the current safety protocols that are put in place to ensure the safety of each member of our school community:  We hear you!  Many district employees not only empathize with this position but fully support it.

With that being said, since the start of the pandemic, we have followed all public health requirements and guidance, with our primary goal being to maintain in-person instruction.  We have been fortunate that so far in the 21-22 school year we have not lost any in-person school days due to the pandemic!  We understand that when decisions are made, they affect families, students, and staff members differently.  We will continue to try to do our best to support ALL students in our district moving forward.

Last week, a path was described by Oregon Health Authority (OHA) that could remove not only the statewide indoor mask mandate, but the K-12 schools mask mandate.  While there are a lot of details, information to share, and impacts that need to be problem solved as a result of such a change.  I would expect we will do as we have always done, and follow the recommendations.  If the recommendation of OHA is to strongly advise and not require, then that is what I expect I will implement here in Fern Ridge.  We will strongly advise, not require.  If the district moves to this, it will impact families differently, just as the mask mandate has.  I wanted to share this information as soon as possible so everyone will have time to prepare for the potential change.  I will also emphasize that it is impossible to make a final decision at this time, as we are 6 weeks away, and much needs to be done over the course of the next 6 weeks before this move can occur.  That would include:

  • THE DISTRICT NEEDS TO STAY UP TO DATE ON THE CHANGES: The information being put out by Oregon Department of Education is currently being reviewed, and reviewed again, by district staff. The most current information regarding the mask mandate that has been put out by OHA can be found at this link:  CLICK HERE.
    • Ensure everyone is fully informed in regards to the fact that if masks are optional in school, MORE STUDENTS will be forced to isolate and or quarantine as the result of being a close contact. Currently, we are able to operate as only having close contacts at lunchtime and athletics.  When masking becomes recommended and not required, we have to follow quarantine/isolation requirements.
    • Ensure everyone is fully informed in regards to the fact that Lane County Public Health plays a role in this decision, and retains ultimate authority if they want to mandate something as they are a “local official.” As I have done since the start of the pandemic, we will advocate for local control.
    • Ensure everyone understands that as conditions change, outbreaks occur, etc… we could return to requiring masks even if we go to optional masking on March 31st.
    • While it has been critical throughout the pandemic, it will be even MORE CRITICAL that parents keep their students home when they are sick.
  • Input from staff: We will be informally talking with all our staff in the coming weeks to get their thoughts on such a change.
  • Input from Parents/Community: The various ways to provide input include:

As we continue to work through this in the days to come, updates will be posted on the website whenever appropriate.


A potential date has been set for the end of the statewide indoor mask mandate, as well as potentially for K-12 schools.

Starting March 31st, after Spring Break, assuming hospitalizations are where the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) modeling has predicted, each school district in cooperation with local public health authorities will be given the responsibility to determine masking requirements for its students, staff, and school volunteers.  All current District COVID protocols are still in place and will continue through March.  

Next Steps:

  • The decisions on our path forward will take some time.  Please understand we just received this news today, and there is a lot to digest.
  • Over the next several weeks, I will be working with our staff, families, and school board to determine the best course of action.
  • Please continue to reinforce health and safety protocols.  The Omicron variant of COVID has not yet reached its peak in Lane County and we hope to be able to continue to keep our schools open, and as many students attending as possible.

Good news:  It is good news that the OHA believes the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID, and the number of hospitalizations, will drop significantly by the end of March.  It is good news that control is being given to local districts, as each school district, city/county is different.

Plans continue to change, sometimes with little notice.  The last two years have confirmed that uncertainty is the one thing we can count on.  Your continued patience and flexibility is essential in helping to keep our kids in school.  I will provide updates for you as soon as there is news to share.  Feel free to reach out to me with questions but be aware that I may have more questions than answers at this moment.

Gary E. Carpenter, Jr.

Superintendent, FRSD.


The FRSD is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative      Action/Veteran’s Preference employer.


The district does not discriminate on the basis of  race, religion, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, sex or  age in its programs or activities.


FRSD Title IX Coordinator

Michelle Marshall 541-935-2253 Ext 1220

FRSD ADA Title II Coordinator

Gary Carpenter 541-935-2253 Ext 1203

FRSD 504 Coordinator

Rilke Klingsporn 541-935-2253 Ext 1301

88834 Territorial Rd.

Elmira, OR 97437


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