Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has mandated universal facemask wearing in public schools for the start of the 2021-2022 school year. This mandate follows the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and guidelines set forth by the National Institute of Health, and the American Academy of Pediatricians.
The mandate stems from a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, likely a result of the more contagious delta variant combined with the FDA not yet approving the use of the vaccines on children under the age of 12. While many among us find masks constrictive and frustrating, an overwhelming majority of medical professionals agree that masks are a highly effective tool in preventing the spread of the virus.
The state education agency, OSPI, has made it very clear that the decision to wear masks is not a choice being left to local school boards. The mandate has the power of law. To further punctuate the point, the state has indicated that it will withhold funding for any district that refuses to comply with the mandate, in Woodland that would equal about 84% of our revenue. There is no local option for replacing any withheld funding.
We are all in this together and we can continue doing our part to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. Our efforts are objectively making a difference as efforts made by Washingtonians have resulted in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths half that of the U.S. average on a per-100,000 population.
We hope that this mandate will be revised as the virus becomes less prevalent. K-12 Superintendent Chris Reykdal released a statement saying, “I believe in time we can move towards a family choice about this particular preventative measure, but not until there is much higher evidence that mask removal won’t spike cases, close school buildings, or contribute to additional deadly variants.”
Additionally, Reykdal has requested the governor mandate all public education employees be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19. For more information, please watch this briefing to the media where Reykdal presented the scientific data, reasoning, and justification for requesting executive action: https://bit.ly/ReykdalBriefing2021-8-13.
We get questions from parents and students about what qualifies as an appropriate mask. The Washington State Department of Health states: "A mask or face covering is anything that completely covers your mouth and nose, and fits securely on the sides of your face and under your chin. It should be made of two or more layers of tightly woven fabric with ties or straps that go around your head or behind your ears."
The CDC has published a GUIDE TO MASKS with more detailed information.
Students and adults who do not have a mask or face-covering that fits this definition will be provided a disposable surgical mask.