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OSHA proposes fines against Grace Cascade Christian High School

Oregon OSHA has proposed a modest fine of $360 against the school for violations of Oregon's school guidance.

Posted: Dec 17, 2020 5:07 PM
Updated: Dec 17, 2020 6:02 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Oregon OSHA has proposed a fine against Grace Cascade Christian High School for alleged violations of the state's coronavirus restrictions. The citation was issued on December 4 by the state agency, which has taken the lead in enforcing Governor Kate Brown's executive orders concerning COVID-19.

According to an OSHA report, an inspector visited the high school on November 20. The inspector noted two "serious" violations — first, that the school was open in spite of the Oregon Department of Education's requirements from the end of September through November, when Jackson County case rates were prohibitively high; and second, that mask mandates were not properly enforced.

"The school's policy allowed for staff removing their facial covering or face shield if the instructor was distanced from students, while students were in the same room," the citation alleges. "Students were allowed to remove their face covering or face shield while seated in their physically distanced desk location leading to 'group mask breaks' potential if multiple students chose to do so at the same time, exposing one or more employees to the serious health hazards of COVID-19."

Between the two violations, the proposed penalty totals a modest $360. OSHA noted that Grace Cascade has 30 days to appeal the fine, but no appeal has yet been filed.

Businesses accused of operating in defiance of state coronavirus restrictions have often received much steeper penalties. Howard's Pharmacy in Lakeview faced a proposed fine of $9,400 from OSHA in September for refusing to mandate masks indoors, and a Rogue River bar had its liquor license suspended by the OLCC.

Schools throughout Jackson County have largely been relegated to comprehensive distance learning since the school year began due to high local COVID-19 case rates and Oregon's mandated metrics. However, Grace Cascade administrators signaled in early August that they would offer in-person classes while other local districts were still navigating the new ODE guidance.

In a letter to families, head of Grace Cascade schools Dr. Ken Townsend said at the time that the private schools were "not under the authority of ODE," but beholden to their own Board of Directors, promising to send a reopening plan to Jackson County Public Health for feedback.

In October, 6th grade students at Cascade Christian Middle School were sent home after a student tested positive for coronavirus. However, there have been no indications from state or local health officials that any of the Grace Cascade schools have been the source of an outbreak of five cases or more.

The OSHA inspector did note some mitigating circumstances in "probability justification" at Cascade Christian High that may have contributed to a relatively small proposed fine:

"Regular most of the time mask usage, regular use in any close proximity, hand sanitation, social distancing, cohorts, daily health screenings, and isolation and quarantine policies," OSHA noted. "Low infection prevalence in local schools at the time of inspection and a high elevated county case rate significantly influenced by high numbers in assisted living facilities and not fully indicative of community at large infection rate."

NewsWatch 12 reached out to Cascade Christian on Thursday for comment but had not received a reply by the time this story was published.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 175121

Reported Deaths: 2460
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah34937568
Washington23491229
Marion20195299
Clackamas15386204
Lane11591144
Jackson9923127
Umatilla796883
Deschutes712972
Linn416063
Yamhill410175
Klamath349059
Polk344252
Malheur342858
Josephine306362
Douglas304765
Benton273218
Jefferson207032
Coos197531
Columbia154526
Union141624
Lincoln130220
Wasco129128
Hood River112529
Morrow107915
Clatsop8958
Crook88019
Baker85814
Curry5959
Tillamook5813
Lake4137
Grant4124
Harney3066
Wallowa1575
Sherman570
Gilliam561
Wheeler251
Unassigned00

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Cases: 3718210

Reported Deaths: 61038
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles122899723653
Riverside2972154525
San Bernardino2947794555
San Diego2749603674
Orange2689624896
Santa Clara1170812013
Kern1078591322
Sacramento1011721646
Fresno1005621646
Alameda853671477
Ventura802301000
San Joaquin714311334
Contra Costa67019782
Stanislaus603831028
Tulare49383829
Monterey43267357
San Mateo41157560
San Francisco36032523
Santa Barbara33896446
Solano31875239
Merced31196452
Sonoma29696311
Imperial27987719
Kings22774245
Placer21751283
San Luis Obispo20917256
Madera16260239
Santa Cruz15571204
Marin13861226
Yolo13580200
Shasta11677217
Butte11573196
El Dorado9719109
Napa966679
Sutter9268109
Yuba609844
San Benito598663
Lassen566924
Tehama543056
Nevada445775
Tuolumne406664
Mendocino398747
Amador362551
Humboldt358737
Lake340943
Glenn235725
Colusa219816
Calaveras205551
Siskiyou194021
Inyo141738
Del Norte12747
Mono12734
Plumas6906
Modoc4884
Mariposa4247
Trinity3985
Sierra1100
Alpine880
Unassigned610
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