Masks required, quarantine guidelines change: What to expect this upcoming school year

SPOKANE, Wash. — Hopes were high for a normal school year. Parents were hoping for no masks and less social distancing.

That won’t be the case.

Governor Jay Inslee mandated masks for the school year again, making that announcement on Wednesday.

Parents like Jacqui Barney are disappointed with that decision.

“My thought is that it’s going to be another repeat of last year and that’s what I’m afraid of,” Barney told 4 News Now.

She said her two kids didn’t do well in class last year, going from virtual learning to hybrid then full-time. They needed more face-to-face learning, and they were not big fans of the masks.

Barney feels like it should be up to individual school districts to make the mask decision, saying not every area has as high case rates. Her kids are in the Deer Park School District.

“Not every school district is the same, not every population is the same,” she said.

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

Mom of two, Barbie Stensgar, told 4 New Now she was happy Governor Inslee made masks required. Her two kids didn’t mind them this last year.

“Given the fact that the numbers are going up and things are increasing, as a mom, I feel much safer sending my kiddos back to school,” she said.

Governor Inslee said down the road, it’s possible mask requirements could change. However, it depends on what COVID is doing in the community.

While masks stay put, other safety measures are changing a bit. The Washington Department of Health (DOH) is relaxing the quarantine guidelines, following what the CDC says.

“We really are trying to balance the need to limit transmission of COVID in the schools so that we’re keeping the schools, students and staff and their families safe. But, also balance the need for in-person instruction and the access to learning that you get in the classroom,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, the deputy secretary for COVID-19 response with DOH.

This fall,  if there are two students, both masked up and are three-feet apart from each other and one person tests positive, the kid exposed won’t have to quarantine. That’s if other preventive measures are in place, too.

Another change — if one student is vaccinated and is exposed to someone who test positive, the vaccinated student won’t have to quarantine. Parents will just need to keep an eye on symptoms if they come up.

The CDC did just change the guidelines on vaccinated people needing to take a test if exposed, but the DOH says it’s continuing to watch what the CDC is saying will update guidance after they consider with other health leaders and stakeholders.

It is possible DOH could change its guidance before school starts, but Fehrenbach hopes that doesn’t happen. She says they are expecting to change it over the course of the school year.

In addition to all that, Fehrenbach says the DOH is continuing to encourage students and parents to get vaccinated if they can.

If parents would like to get their students vaccinated before school starts, this is the last weekend to meet that threshold.

A student can get their first dose, at latest, by Monday, August 2. They’ll get their second dose 21 days after that, then they’ll be considered fully vaccinated by September 6, the week most districts go back.

READ: Washington Department of Health starts new ‘Power of Providers’ vaccine initiative

READ: ‘We can’t have unvaccinated people injuring their fellow citizens’: Inslee blames the unvaccinated for rise in cases