Richland School District cancels school again following ‘mask choice’ vote

Richland School District

RICHLAND, Wash. — For the second day in a row, the Richland School District has canceled school. On Tuesday, the school board voted 3-2 to make masking optional.

Hours after the decision, the district announced an emergency closure for Wednesday. On Wednesday night, the district said on Facebook that it’s asking for patience as the staff continues to problem solve.

“I think it should be a freedom of choice. They’re our children and we should have the right to send them to school with a mask or not,” said Tara Smith, a Richland parent.

The second day of closure comes less than 24 hours before Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to announce an end date to the mask mandate. In a previous press conference, he said schools will likely be included in the lifting of the indoor mandate.

However, nothing is finalized yet, according to the governor’s office.

Frustrated parents protested outside a Richland school, supporting the end to the mandate. Richland School District is one of two in the state that has defied the mandate.

On Monday, the Kettle Falls School Board voted to make masks optional. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) said if the districts do not comply in 20 days, the office will withhold state funding. The districts are given two notices.

While these school districts have decided to make masking up a choice, 40 Eastern Washington superintendents have signed and sent a letter to Gov. Inslee, the state Department of Health and OSPI asking for two things.

They want the mask mandate lifted immediately and to shift contact tracing responsibilities to the state health department.

As Washingtonians wait for a date from Gov. Inslee, states like Virginia have lifted its masking requirements.

“We are reaffirming, reaffirming the right all parents have, the fundamental rights to make decisions for your children, for their education, for their upbringing and for their care,” said Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

In California, the indoor mask mandate is gone, but schools still have to comply.

The CDC says it’s debating a change in masking guidelines, though it’s not clear if it will include schools.

“I know that they are very carefully reviewing the information,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby, White House COVID-19 Response Team Senior Adviser. “I think CDC’s job is to make sure that schools are safe, and that kids can be in school around the country.”

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READ: More than 40 Eastern Washington superintendents call on state to lift mask mandate

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