‘Districts are required to follow the law’: WA superintendent warns schools to keep following mask mandate

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Some school boards are deciding to make masks optional in classrooms before Governor Jay Inslee announces the date to lift the requirement in schools.

The Kettle Falls School District is one in Eastern Washington which decided to defy the mask mandate. The school board voted to make them optional in a meeting Monday night.

Following suit, on Tuesday afternoon, the Richland School Board did the same.

While State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said he thinks masks should be optional in schools soon, he reiterates that schools should follow the mask mandate until Inslee lifts the requirement.

RELATED: ‘Time to make the change’: WA Superintendent of Public Instruction supports making masks optional in school

In an email to superintendents and board presidents on Feb. 10 after his announcement, Reykdal warns his office will continue to send notices to districts that willfully defy the mask requirements and can still withhold money or reduce funds to the district.

“As superintendents and elected officials, you are held to the highest standard of lawful behavior. We don’t always agree with laws or proclamations that have the power of law, but I hope we can all agree that we have moral and legal obligations to follow the law. Our children are modeling behaviors and forming opinions on our civil order based upon what they see and hear from leaders like you in their community,” Reykdal said in the email.

Inslee plans to announce a date this week of when he will lift the mask mandate for indoor public places and schools. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recognizes it’s close, but that school districts need to wait.

“The governor’s proclamations hold the power of law, and school districts are required to follow the law. Until it is changed or removed, we expect districts to follow the law. If districts willfully fail to uphold the law, they face health, legal, and financial risks,” OSPI said in a statement to 4 News Now.

Some parents are wondering how it’s possible OSPI can threaten funds for a school, which they are required to provide. OSPI says it can withhold money until a district complies, then they’ll get that apportionment back, or when Inslee’s mask mandate is lifted.

“The state is required to provide funding, but districts are required to follow the law,” OSPI said.

RELATED: Kettle Falls superintendent explains why the district is defying the mask mandate