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DOH requires masks in WA schools in Fall

Student in Mask

On July 28, 2021 the Washington Department of Health issued a requirement that masks be worn in all schools in the state to begin the 2021-22 school year. Below is a letter from Superintendent Steve Marshall to HSD parents explaining this requirement.

 

July 30, 2021

 

Dear HSD Families:

As you are already aware, on Wednesday the Washington Department of Health issued new requirements for K-12 schools for the 2021-22 school year. I want you to know that the HSD building leaders are working hard to clarify these requirements. We will also be collaborating with our unions and the Clark County Health Department so you and your student will be clear on what is expected of staff and students well in advance of our first day of school on September 1.  Two main requirements are clear at this time:

  1. Hockinson, along with all Washington schools, will operate on a full-time, in-person model.

  2. All students and staff will need to wear masks at school regardless of vaccination status. 

This DOH order is consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The State will revisit these requirements if circumstances change. 

The HSD cares about our students, their learning, and their overall health. We also care about our families. While Washington schools are required to comply with this order, the HSD School Board and I want to get a pulse on our community’s attitudes toward the mask requirement and your preferred learning format for the coming school year so we will be providing updates and survey opportunities in the weeks ahead.

Finally, I know that a number of parents have concerns about masks. Until this requirement is eased, we will do what we can to address some of those concerns. For example, we will provide students with disposable masks for frequent replacement and look to schedule in as many mask breaks throughout the school day as we can. I also wanted to pass along some talking points from Chris Reykdal, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, as they underscore the position school districts are in. Those talking points are below.

 

Sincerely,


Steve Marshall

Superintendent

Hockinson School District

 

OSPI Talking Points re: Ongoing Mask Requirement in WA Schools

 

  • The ongoing mask order applies to public schools, charter schools, private schools, and tribal compact schools.

 

  • The COVID Delta variant is highly transmissible, and a growing number of young people are getting infected with and spreading the virus. Based on a DOH review of national studies:

 

Children do get COVID-19 infection, even if they have fewer symptoms. Data shows that young people (age 0-17) have the highest level of antibodies of any age group (27.8%).

 

Young people have been infected and are spreading this virus, especially Delta, even though they appear less symptomatic. Because they are less symptomatic, they are less likely to be tested and less likely to embrace mitigation strategies in their public interactions.

 

  • Wearing masks is an important mitigation strategy when combined with additional strategies, such as vaccination.

 

  • Under the authority of RCW 43.06.220, the Governor has broad emergency powers, and the Governor’s executive orders have the power of law. OSPI will comply with state law and will require school districts to do the same.  

 

  • By constitutional authority and RCW 28A.300.040, one of OSPI’s clear responsibilities is “supervision over all matters pertaining to the public schools of the state.”  Apportionment amounts and timing are shaped by additional law and Reykdal has made it clear that school boards or districts that intentionally disobey or dismiss a law, including a Governor’s executive order, will see an immediate halt to their basic education apportionment, and their federal funds that come through OSPI.

 

  • Any district that does not offer a full-time, in-person learning experience for each and every family and student that seeks it will be considered in violation of basic education rights of families, and will also have their apportionment and federal funds immediately halted.

 

  • These critical public health actions, including the current masking order, are not at the discretion of local boards or local superintendents.  Local community members have the right to bring their grievances to their elected leaders, but in the case of these public health measures, they are not local decisions. Local school boards have discretion on the details of instructional delivery, but they are not empowered to override the legal authority of public health officers or the Governor in times of a public health emergency.

 

  • Individuals who violate the mask orders, or other layered mitigation strategies, not only carry individual legal risks, but they also risk transmissions and outbreaks in school that will warrant quarantines, school building closures, and disruptions to in-person learning.





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