Richland School Board votes to make masks optional, OSPI prepares notice to withhold funding

Richland School Board Votes To Make Masks Optional, Ospi Prepares Notice To Withhold Funding

RICHLAND, Wash. — The Richland School Board gathered for a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, voting to make masks optional for students and staff across the city effective immediately.

This vote for ‘Mask Choice’ was decided on by a final tally of three votes to two with School Board President Jill Oldson and member Rick Jansons dissenting.

Already, the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is preparing to launch its process to withhold state funding from the school district.

RELATED: Tri-Cities students speak out both for and against the statewide mask mandates

KAPP KVEW reached out to the OSPI for comment. This is the statement provided by Katy Payne, the Executive Director of Communications:

Our emergency rule lays out the process OSPI will take if a school district willfully violates the mask mandate (e.g., passing a board resolution to not require compliance).

You will note that the process begins with an official notice to the district. After 15 days, if the issue is not corrected and the district doesn’t take a corrective action, OSPI would issue a second notice. The district would then have 5 days to issue a corrective action. If the district does not provide verification of compliance within those 5 additional days, OSPI would withhold the district’s subsequent monthly apportionment payment for the month outlined in the second notice. If the district still does not take corrective action after OSPI withholds payment of two monthly apportionment cycles, OSPI would reduce the district’s funding proportionately until corrective action is taken.

We are preparing to send a first notice to Richland School District tomorrow.

READ: ‘We have a right to feel safe’ — Student petition to fire Richland High teacher has nearly 2k signatures

School districts do not have the jurisdiction to overpower state rules, meaning the Richland School District will likely face repercussions for this decision.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expressed the importance of wearing masks as a tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19 since the earliest days of the pandemic. Their website outlines several examples of how masks prevent the spread of coronavirus in schools, including the following study:

In a nationwide analysis of data collected during July 1-September 4, 2021, U.S. counties without school mask requirements experienced larger increases in pediatric COVID-19 case rates (18.53 per 100,000 per day more cases) after the start of school compared with counties with school mask requirements

This is a breaking news story. An update and/or follow-up will be issued as further details are revealed.


READ: “Thank you for not keeping us safe”: Kennewick students, parents speak out at school board meeting