SPOKANE, Wash. — As Washington Gov. Jay Inslee prepares to lift the indoor mask mandate, Spokane schools are also preparing to return to the classroom maskless for the first time in nearly two years.
Inslee announced that Washington state's indoor mask mandate will be lifted on March 21, 2022. This means students in K-12 schools will no longer be required to wear a mask while at school.
Masks have been a requirement for students since they returned to the classroom after transitioning to remote learning during the 2020-2021 school year.
The state of Washington plans to send out additional guidance for schools during the week of March 7, 2022. The guidance will be sent to give districts more time to prepare for the transition to optional mask use.
If students and staff wish to continue wearing masks, they will be able to do so.
Schools will still be required to report COVID-19 cases and outbreaks to the state health department, and students and staff showing symptoms of COVID-19 will still be required to quarantine.
Additionally, schools must ensure that COVID-19 testing is available for staff and students that have symptoms of the virus or have been exposed to it.
Micheal Dunn, the superintendent of Educational Service District (ESD) 101, said the announcement is a sign of hope.
"While I might personally wish that it was a little bit sooner, I also appreciate that they're likely looking at the modeling of when COVID will really be at a safe enough level," Dunn said. "And I think that it is really pretty close in time."
Spokane Public Schools District sent the following statement to parents regarding the mask mandate:
Dear SPS staff and families,
Thank you for your patience and support as we continue to navigate the many challenges and changes that have occurred throughout the pandemic.
Today, Feb. 17, Governor Jay Inslee announced that the K12 mask mandate will be lifted March 21 for anyone entering a school building. In addition, the vaccine requirement for large events will expire March 1.
As in the past, we ask that all students and staff follow health and safety protocols.
SPS will continue to follow the guidance of public health officials and will provide updates to staff and families whenever changes are made.
The Mead School District also sent a statement on the governor's decision, stating in part:
We understand that this change in how our schools are operating will be met with differing opinions and responses, and we will work with our students and staff to ensure a smooth transition. Overall, the pandemic has taken a toll on our students, and returning to more normalcy will make a positive difference in their social and emotional well-being.