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Masks will be required this fall for Spokane Public Schools students, staff. Here's why

The district will follow guidance from the Washington Department of Health.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Public Schools announced Wednesday that masks will be required for students and staff for the 2021-22 school year.

The past school year was tough for everyone — students, parents, teachers and staff. 

"I want to do in person," Jack, 6, said. "I am feeling happy about doing first grade."

After having a hybrid schedule for most of the year, returning to in-peson learning is what Jack is excited about. There is only one caveat.

"I dont like wearing them because they are hot and sweaty," he added.

This guidance applies to everyone regardless of vaccination status to keep everyone safe during full-time, in-person learning. It comes after Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington Department of Health (DOH) announced new recommendations for wearing masks indoors and for the upcoming school year.

The new guidance includes the state is recommending residents wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status in counties where COVID-19 transmission levels are surging, which includes most of the state.

Jack doesn't mind wearing masks as long as he can see his best friends in class. Around the playground, his view seemed to be the popular reaction from the kids: they are important, but can be a bit annoying.

"I'm fine with them," Ellis, 8, said.

"I like wearing them, and sometimes they bug me," Austin, 4, added.

State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said the state is seeing more of the Delta variant.

“We’re very concerned about our children. The maintenance of the school guidance is critical because we know it is important to protect our young ones," Shah said.

The district said in a press release that they are required to follow guidance from the DOH.

The DOH included more guidelines regarding social distancing and more in public schools.

  • All school personnel, volunteers, visitors, and students must wear cloth face coverings or masks regardless of vaccination status when indoors and on school buses.
  • Schools should maintain at least three feet of physical distancing between students in classroom settings, to the degree possible and reasonable, that allows for full-time, in-person learning for all students.
  • Schools must have good ventilation and indoor air quality, cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and continue to encourage frequent handwashing and good respiratory etiquette.
  • Students and school employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu should stay home and seek medical attention, which may include COVID-19 testing.
  • Schools must have plans in place to quickly respond to COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

Parents were more split than the kids were in their responses. Some said that kids are missing out on the psycho-social element of interacting with their friends and teachers.

"Well guess I'm homeschooling my kids again this year," one Facebook user said. 

Other parents say that is a small price to pay for safety.

"Anything we can do, anything our children can do, so we can go about our daily lives," Father of two Bryan Kirk said. "If all we have to do is wear a mask to help the spread, I'm totally for it." 

"It makes me feel safe and protected," Austin added. "It helps other people so [the virus] doesn't go into your body."

The district will also provide an online alternative for those who do not want to attend in-person learning. Spokane Virtual Academy (SVA) is an optional program that provides K-12 students with a personalized, fully online learning experience. In order to ensure proper staffing for the SVA option, parents must register their student by Aug. 8, 2021 for guaranteed enrollment.  

The delta variant poses a greater risk to younger people, according to health officials, including those under 12 years old and ineligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This is a legal requirement statewide and not up to local jurisdictions, Gov. Inslee said.

The state hopes these guidelines will minimize transmission of the virus among students, families and the broader community as well as maximize in-person instruction. 

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