Masks in class: Some parents and schools have different opinions on lifting the mask mandate next month
SPOKANE, Wash. – On Thursday afternoon, Governor Jay Inslee announced the state-wide mask mandate is coming to an end on March 21. Some places will still have to require them, but not in schools or child care facilities.
Students riding the bus will still be required to wear masks because of federal requirements. However, it is unclear as the federal guidelines expire in mid-March, before Inslee’s mask mandate is lifted.
While some are happy about the mask mandate coming to an end, some parents are still concerned it’s still too soon.
Mom Elisabeth Kraus says she’s tired of the pandemic, just like many other people, but she believes masks should still stay on in the classroom until at least the end of the school year.
“I think lifting the mask mandate and then having to go back would cause them more emotional distress than masking has ever done,” she said.
She’s afraid schools will have to revert back and end on a bad note toward the end of the school year.
“Our school year will end with more closures, more sick kids, more sick staff and that we’re going to end up ending the year just sliding into third rather than rounding a home run,” she said.
While it’s hard to tell what will happen in the future, Governor Inslee said he’s confident with the March 21 date to lift masks in schools. Inslee said he’s going with data to show when hospital admission rates will be at a point where it should be okay enough to take off the masks.
Freeman School District Superintendent Randy Russell says the masks coming off in schools is “overdue.”
He wished they were optional at the start of the school year, however, he’s happy it’s coming off during the school year, nonetheless.
“We’ll take it. Right after two challenging years, for us to have to follow the mandates for another four weeks, I’m sure our students and staff and families will understand there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and the light’s going to be here pretty quickly,” he said.
Along with masks becoming optional in a matter of weeks, more COVID measures will be relaxed in schools. The Washington Department of Health says it’s discussing social distancing, ventilation and more to become recommendations rather than requirements soon. The DOH will release more guidance for schools on March 7.
However, part of the changed guidance will not include contact tracing, which Russell and 40 more Eastern Washington superintendents wanted the responsibility to go to the DOH.
“It’s just unsustainable for a school district to also be a health clinic. We’re not designed for it. It’s meant to be a short-term solution, and now it’s basically become a long-term requirement and it has wiped folks out,” Russell said.
Regardless, Russell says he’s happy changes are coming, and that they’ll continue to use safeguards around schools.
As for Kraus, she said she’ll continue to have her students mask up when going to class.
“My kids have had no problem with masks the whole time., I have a child who has significant medical complications. She does multiple breathing treatments a day, and masks have been no issue for her at all,” Kraus said. “I think that kids are okay with whatever parents are okay with.”
The mandate will still be in effect for the next four weeks, and schools are required to follow that law.
Both Governor Inslee and State Superintendent Chris Reykdal say schools must follow it. If they don’t comply, the state could withhold funding. When a district doesn’t comply, schools will get two warnings and a total of 20 days to comply with the mandate.
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