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Washington students return to class without masks

Students across Washington return to school on Monday without masks, which are no longer required following the end of the state's mask mandate.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The end of Washington’s indoor mask mandate means students in the state are returning to class without masks for the first time in a year and a half. For some younger students, it will be their first time in school without wearing a mask.

Schools transitioned to distance learning in March of 2020, and masks had been required in Washington schools since students started returning in the fall of 2020.

“This is a big moment,” state schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal said in a news conference announcing plans to end mask requirements.

Gov. Jay Inslee ended most of the state’s indoor mask requirements on Saturday, meaning masks are no longer required at schools, child care facilities and most other businesses. 

The Washington State Department of Health also updated its ‘School Guidance and Regulations.’ Among the key changes:

  • Faculty members may be temporarily required to wear a mask in some situations.
  • Students, children, and staff will have the choice to wear a mask.
  • Anyone may need to wear a mask because a member of their household is high risk.
  • Masks may be required universally during clusters and/or outbreaks in classrooms or with groups.
  • Schools and providers should provide masks and other appropriate PPE to staff, students, and children as needed or desired.

The state gave schools some leeway, allowing them to still require masks where they see fit.

Spokane Public Schools shared its updated health and safety protocols on Friday.

Updated SPS Health and Safety Protocols

  • Masks will be optional in all SPS buildings (except in student health care and COVID-19 isolation rooms)
  • Families are encouraged to visit the weekly COVID-19 dashboard.
  • Letters to families regarding positive cases and quarantines will be discontinued.
  • Testing will not be required for athletics.
  • Masks are optional for all curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular performance art activities.
  • SPS will end contact tracing. Families must fill out the COVID-19 reporting form to report symptoms or a positive COVID-19 case. SPS is required to report COVID-19 cases to the Department of Health and Spokane Regional Health District.

SPS will continue to:

  • Require staff, students, and volunteers to follow SPS health and safety protocols when symptomatic or positive for COVID-19 regardless of vaccination status.
  • Require all employees and volunteers in educational settings to be fully vaccinated or have a religious or medical exemption.

Washington mask guidelines

Washington state no longer requires masks in most indoor settings including schools, bars, restaurants, markets, stores, gyms, and many other spaces However, the state and the federal government will still require masks in healthcare settings and on public transportation, for now.

Masks not required starting March 12

  • Schools, childcare facilities, and libraries
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Houses of worship
  • Gyms, recreation centers, and indoor athletic facilities
  • Grocery stores, businesses, and retail establishments

Masks still required after March 12

  • Healthcare and medical facilities, including hospitals, outpatient, dental facilities and pharmacies
  • Long-term care settings
  • Public transit, taxis, and rideshare vehicles (federal requirement)
  • Correctional facilities
  • Private businesses and local governments that want to require masks for their employees, customers, or residents.

Private businesses can still require masks if they choose, people will also still have the option to wear masks at work or businesses.

Additionally, the Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday that it will extend its masking requirement through April 18. The federal rule means masks will be required through at least mid-April on planes, buses, trains, and at transit hubs.

Click here for more information about Washington masks and COVID-19 guidelines.

WATCH MORE: The Garden Coffee & Local Eats shop reacts to mask mandate ending

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