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Kids to continue masking in Seattle Public Schools — possibly for two more months

caption: Danishar Dorsey walks with her daughter, Serenity Woods, to her first day of 5th-grade at Mount View Elementary school on Thursday, September 2, 2021, in Seattle.
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Danishar Dorsey walks with her daughter, Serenity Woods, to her first day of 5th-grade at Mount View Elementary school on Thursday, September 2, 2021, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Washington state and King County are both lifting indoor mask requirements starting March 12. But for now, students and staff in Seattle Public Schools will still need to mask up.

State officials have moved up the timeline for ending mask requirements in schools, bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and a host of other venues.

Public health officials have stressed that an end to indoor masking requirements does not mean the pandemic is over. They are encouraging people to assess their own risk and take necessary precautions.

A statement from Seattle Public Schools said implementation of any new mask guidance must meet the unique health and safety needs of the school community.

According to the statement, Seattle Schools will continue until further notice with their current policy, which requires all students, staff, visitors and others to mask while at Seattle school buildings.

Mask use will continue to be required on buses as well.

Masking is still required in schools and other indoor settings statewide until March 12.

“Future decisions on mask use within the district will be made in partnership with public health, and new policy implementation will be established after consultation and mutually agreed upon guidelines that are reached through bargaining with our labor partners,” the statement said.

The district must bargain with the Seattle Education Association before changing mask requirements.

Jennifer Matter is the president of the teachers union. She said Monday that the union wants to see mask rules lift no sooner than two weeks after spring break, or May 1, which is two months from now.

Matter said they want to see whether there's a spike in cases after the most recent break, and again see what happens with cases in schools after spring break.

“We believe there should be no rush to lift the mask mandate,” Matter said.

Matter said it’s important to center the voices of those most affected during negotiations.

"We have people who are immunocompromised, we have pregnant educators, we have educators who have children of their own that are under five years of age that cannot be vaccinated."

Matter said many younger students also remain unvaccinated.

Just under 50 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds in King County are fully vaccinated, according to data from Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Across King county, and across the state, school districts will have to make decisions about how to approach masking once rules have lifted.

Masks will become optional for students and staff in the Mercer Island School District after March 12.

By email, Superintendent Donna Colosky wrote: “I ask that our community be respectful and sensitive to the individual decisions our staff and families will make on whether or not to wear a mask after March 12. No one in our schools should feel harassed or intimidated by their decision to wear or not to wear a face covering.”

Similarly, the Lake Washington School District will make masks optional beginning March 12.

“Staff and students will have the choice to wear a mask at school, with the expectation that others’ choices will be respected,” Superintendent Jon Holmen said in a statement.

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