School Mask Mandate Lifting on March 12
Governor Jay Inslee has announced the end of the mask mandate in schools beginning on Saturday March 12. This means that on this date, although masks will be encouraged, parents will have the option to choose whether or not their children wear masks in school buildings. Masks will still be required for use on buses per a federal mandate that requires masks be worn on all forms of public transportation.
These past years have been full of emotions and, at times, division. All of us have been impacted by this pandemic differently. For some, this change will come as a relief, but, for others, it will result in new anxieties and concerns.
Since the onset of this long journey beginning in March of 2020, we have asked for your patience as we have responded to the evolving guidance from our state leaders and health district officials. Many families may be wondering why we have to wait until March 12, to release the mask mandate. The Governor has set this date to release this mask mandate based on when the Department of Health projects the impact of the Omicron variant on our health system and hospitals is to be significantly reduced. We have been assured that as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 declines and our access to vaccines and testing becomes more and more readily available, it will become less necessary to require masks be worn in public spaces.
By law, individual school districts are not allowed to enact less restrictive policies until this mandate is released. OSPI has committed to upholding this mask mandate until the effective release date of March 12. School districts who do not abide by this mandate will be subject to punitive actions.
It is anticipated the release of the mask mandate will also result in changes to our COVID contract tracing and quarantine protocols. As we learn more about these changes in the coming weeks, we will keep you informed.
Along with your patience, we are also asking for the support and cooperation of our students, staff and families. We need to work together as a community as we navigate this new change. The choice of whether or not to wear a mask is a very personal decision. People have different reasons for why they decide to wear a mask or not in our schools. We need to be understanding and respectful of each other as we make this transition.
Again, we appreciate your commitment to our schools and your continued patience and support.