Washington to require all K-12 students, school employees to wear masks this fall

OLYMPIA, Wash. — When students return to class this fall, they will need their backpacks, textbooks and a mask. 

Governor Jay Inslee clarified Wednesday that all K-12 students in Washington will be required to wear masks during the upcoming school year. Employees and staff will also be required to follow that rule. 

“I think it’s something that, to be candid, people were hoping was not going to be the case. Simply because it’s been – people have become a bit worn out by the pandemic,” said Michael Dunn, the superintendent of the Northeast Washington Educational District 101.

As a person who helps more than 100 different school districts in northeast, Dunn was hoping the vaccine would’ve helped nix the mask this fall.

It was a requirement last year, and Governor Inslee is maintaining that stance this fall.

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Inslee said this is a legal requirement that all districts must follow, as the state does not want to see waves of the virus force students to return to at-home learning. 

“We will protect our young children. For those who’ve hoped we didn’t have to continue that mask requirement, I certainly understand that frustration. These trends are getting worse,” Inslee said.

Washington is now in its fifth wave; more people are contracting the virus. Inslee and health leaders attribute this to the un-vaccinated.

Children under 12 still can’t get the vaccine and health experts say that’s now not expected to happen until the winter.

“Even if you don’t care about your own health, how about caring about the kids who can’t get the vaccine right now because they’re not eligible?” Inslee said. “Maybe care about those kids and get a vaccine for them.”

Inslee said the mask requirement in school could change down the road if COVID trends go back down, but as of now, students will have to cover up their mouths and nose while learning in class.

He urged parents to get their children vaccinated if they are eligible. At this time, children 12 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Children 16 and older can get the Moderna vaccine. 

Late Wednesday, Spokane Public Schools says it will be following the state’s guidance and require everyone to wear masks this fall. If families do not want their kids to learn in-person this upcoming year, SPS said it is offering an online learning program. Not every district will have that option, so parents should check with their school districts.

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READ: Community members weigh in on CDC’s new mask guidance