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Spokane Public Schools requiring masks for 2021-2022 school year

The Spokane Public Schools Board also passed an equity policy dedicated to supporting and uplifting all students.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Public Schools is gearing up for the 2021-2022 school year. In a meeting Wednesday night, the reopening plan was described and the board members voted unanimously to approve a new equity policy. 

In just a matter of weeks, thousands of students across the Inland Northwest will head back to school. Unlike last year, the vast majority of students will return to in-person learning. 

The most important and contentious decision: masks will be required. Everyone must wear a mask when student programming is occurring in a school, regardless of vaccination status. However, there are some exceptions.

Students may remove their masks when they are eating or when they are outside. People may remove their masks if they are vaccinated, and scheduled student programming is not occurring in the school or district facility. Confirmation of student programming status and vaccination verification is required before someone can remove their mask. 

After the past year of hybrid learning, SPS families can breathe a sigh of relief. Students can now go to school full-time for in-person learning. If they aren't interested in that, the Spokane Virtual Academy will be available again this year.

Other updated public health guidance includes:

  • Staff and students will not be required to complete a daily health attestation this year. 
  • Maintaining student cohorts is no longer a requirement. 
  • While schools should continue to utilize promote social distancing, it cannot be a reason to limit in-person instruction. 
  • Guidelines for lunch services, performing arts and athletics are still being evaluated. 
  • Contact tracing and testing will be available just like last year. 

Not every family was satisfied with this plan. Some compared wearing masks to being controlled, residing in a concentration camp or straight-up abuse. Each mask-supporter who spoke up at the public forum was baffled by these claims, urging people to think about our community and loved ones instead of themselves. 

The other major point of contention was the equity policy. This policy basically assures that SPS will be working towards making every student and staff member feel supported, no matter their race, ethnicity, class, ability, gender or sexual orientation. 

These are the six goals that were voted upon unanimously by the Board: 

  1. Address structural systems with a focus on eliminating barriers and improve access for students. 
  2. Developing the success within individual students, through recognizing and understanding the diverse representation of successful learning. 
  3. Increase student hope and resiliency through access to restorative interventions and culturally appropriate supports to decrease rates of disproportionality throughout the educational system. 
  4. Foster a supportive learning environment and workplace that is free of discrimination, bigotry and intimidation. 
  5. Provide processes for staff to be trained and educated on anti-racism and anti-bigotry and provide protections for historically underserved staff.
  6. Promptly respond to incidents of discrimination and bigotry through discrimination complaint and resolution processes.

With critical race theory (CRT) in the news, SPS had to take the time to differentiate between CRT and their proposed policy. 

CRT is an academic concept based on how racism is embedded in our institutions and our laws. School leaders say that's too complex to be utilized in high school level learning and below. So, SPS does not teach critical race theory and never has. 

Although not a major portion of the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Adam Swinyard discussed priority goals and objectives for the school year. This included prioritizing resources and training to ensure high levels of inclusion for students with disabilities, developing a mentoring model and initiate pilot program during the year and continuing a curriculum audit and update for all social studies courses and provide training to social teachers on addressing key concepts related to race and equity.