Mandy Storey has been working as a Fern Ridge School District employee since September of 2019, but with all five of her and her husband’s children attending FRSD, she really has been a familiar face since 2006!
Currently, you’ll get to see Mandy’s smiling face in the front office at Elmira High School where she spends most of her day answering phones, assisting parent with questions on everything from sporting events to school schedules to policies. She works with her student office assistants to show them how to use the phone system and learn office skills they can use outside of school. She assists administrators and teachers in their daily routines to help make their days go more smoothly, as well as taking daily attendance, putting together morning announcements and welcoming many different substitutes to the building to help out staff. Mandy is also a very pivotal person in the school’s Leadership class helping bring school spirit to all at Elmira High School.
“My favorite part about my job is seeing the students in the morning and welcoming them in with a smile. I like to ask how their morning is going and hear about their days. I let them know I’m invested in their success. So even when it has been a tough morning, I can typically get a smile out of them by letting them know I am HAPPY to see them and that they made my day by being present.”
In Mandy’s free time she enjoys going to dinner with friends, hiking, being in the outdoors and watching fun movies and TV shows with her family. She has been married for over 19 years to her husband James and together they have Justice, William, Gracie, Brady, and Scarlett.
Mandy tells us that her all time favorite place to go is the beach. “Any day at the beach is a great day for me.” She hopes to be able to travel more in her down time and hopes to one day travel the world with her husband.
Thank you Mandy for all you do to help keep Elmira High School running smooth and making it a welcoming place for students!
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:
- Masks and other health protocols are still required until March 19.
- 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.
- 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: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/ORED/bulletins/30c2377
This memo was a result of a new OHA update released this morning, that can be read here: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/ORDHS/bulletins/30c223b
- 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:
- Attend monthly community Q and A: The Q and A’s occur from 5:30-6:00 on board meeting nights. The next two are Feb 28th and March 21st. The zoom link is: https://fernridge-k12-or-us.zoom.us/j/88212696504#success
- Submit comments at a board meeting: The links to the “Public Comment Policy” and the “Intent to Speak form” can be found within this post: https://www.fernridge.k12.or.us/2022/02/09/community-questions-and-voices/
- Email Supt. Carpenter at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call Supt. Carpenter @ 541-935-2253 to provide input, or to set up an in-person meeting.
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.
- 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.
Feb 7 – Feb 11, 2022, is our time to focus on the contributions of school counselors in Fern Ridge School District and across the nation.
For the 2022-2023 school year, Fern Ridge welcomed three new counselors to our staff. Mrs. Madison Heuertz-McFall, Mrs. Ashley Fischer, and Mr. Courtland Wirth!
Our counseling team works hard at every building throughout the year to actively engage students, helping them to focus on positive ways to enhance their social/emotional development, and plan for a future after high school.
Join us in thanking our counseling team for all of the work they do to ensure our students can reach their greatest potential!
Ashley Fischer: Elmira Elementary & Veneta Elementary School
Madison Heuertz-McFall: Fern Ridge Middle School
Brittany McMillan & Courtland Wirth: Elmira High School
Fern Ridge roots run deep with our February employee of the month! Not only is Emilee Russell a graduate of the Fern Ridge School District, but so are her two siblings and her mom works in the middle school library. Before joining the district as a teacher, Ms. Russell worked as an Instructional Assistant at Elmira Elementary for two years while in college.
Ms. Russell came to work for the school district in September of 2020 as an elementary teacher in the Options program. This year, she is teaching Kindergarten at Elmira Elementary School.
“My favorite part of my job is seeing students’ confidence and self-esteem grow. Every chance I can, I love to show them their progress and remind them of things they used to have difficulty with and now are so much stronger at. I feel lucky to have the chance to help kids develop an excitement and love for learning!”
One of her favorite things to do each morning is greet students:
“I have learned that in just a quick minute each morning, you can make a kid feel special and cared for and happy to be at school.”
This year, Ms. Russell has joined the math committee and is one of the coordinators for the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program. “I am loving learning more about TAG and meeting and working with students from all over the district.”
This is the first year she has taught Kindergarten and she is so thankful for such a supportive team and everyone who helped her learn the ropes in a new grade level.
When she is away from the classroom, she enjoys snow skiing, crafting, jogging and reading. She and her boyfriend just moved from Eugene to Elmira with their two dogs, Ace and Willie. Together they love road trips and she is slowly but surely visiting the National Parks.
Mrs. Klingsporn nominated Ms. Russell for this recognition because of her “super flexibility in moving to the EES Kindergarten position and how she dove in deeply to support students”
Elmira Elementary (and the entire district) appreciate Emilee’s positive attitude, calm presence and laughter. Thank you Emilee!
For the foreseeable future, we will be addressing a heating issue at EHS. This morning we found that the primary mixing valve had failed in the boiler system. Earlier this year, our maintenance staff identified this valve as needing to be replaced and we ordered one. It was scheduled to be here in late December to change out, however, the part has not yet arrived due to supply/factory issues and today it failed.
We will be monitoring the heat in the school closely and be doing several things to help keep the rooms to temperature until this problem can be fixed. We had multiple experts on site today and we will continue to problem solve along side them in the days to come.
In the meantime, students should dress for cooler temperatures on campus, especially first thing in the morning, before strategies we will be implementing have time to take effect each day. We will continue to monitor and adjust. For future updates, please follow the EHS webpage.
Parents of afterschool care students:
Due to unexpected staffing shortages, Fern Ridge Child Development Center is unable to operate the afterschool program from Tuesday, Feb 1st thru Friday, Feb 4th.