Masks will continue to be required until further notice in Seattle Public Schools, the district said Monday after Gov. Jay Inslee announced the statewide masking requirement for schools would be lifted on March 12.
In a statement posted online, Seattle Public Schools said: "Future decisions on mask use within the district will be made in partnership with public health, and its implementation will be established after consultation and mutually agreed upon guidelines that are reached through bargaining with our labor partners."
District officials said SPS would continue requiring masks until further notice in schools and on buses as required by law:
- Continue until further notice with our current policy requiring mask use by all students, staff, visitors and others while they are indoors and outdoors at all SPS buildings;
- Continue to require mask use on school buses, as required by federal law;
- Base updates to current masking policy on the specific needs of the district, informed by local public health guidance.
- Negotiate with the Seattle Education Association, as required by the current collective bargaining agreement, to arrive at a mutually agreeable position regarding any permanent change to mask use requirements throughout the district.
"With declining case rates and hospitalizations across the West, California, Oregon and Washington are moving together to update their masking guidance," the governors said in a statement. There are more than 7.5 million school-age children across the three states.
The governors of the three states announced the measure in a joint statement as part of new indoor mask policies that come as coronavirus case and hospitalization rates decline across the West Coast.
The new guidance will make face coverings a recommendation rather than a requirement at most indoor places in California starting Tuesday and at schools on March 12, regardless of vaccination status. In Washington and Oregon, all the requirements will lift on March 12.
Following that announcement, Everett Public Schools announced that until Monday, March 14, masks will still be required for all students, staff and visitors while in district buildings and on buses. After that, students and staff can wear a mask if they choose to, but it won't be mandated.
"Students and staff will have the choice to wear a mask at school, with the expectation that others’ choices will be respected. One should not make assumptions regarding someone’s beliefs or health status, nor should they comment on them. Our district will not tolerate bullying of any kind for those who choose to continue wearing masks," the district said in a statement.
The milestone comes as much of the country relaxes public health orders, including school mask mandates, in an effort to restore normalcy and boost economic recovery.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.