On Tuesday, the Washington Department of Health (DOH) issued updated guidance for COVID safety in schools. These changes reflect declining COVID case rates and hospitalizations in King County and Washington state.
As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, we will continue to follow DOH guidance. Here are some key points in the updated guidance, effective Monday, March 14:
- Masks: Masks are no longer required for staff, students and visitors in schools in most circumstances. Some staff and students may choose to continue to wear masks. Masks provide an additional layer of protection and are especially important for those who are or who live with someone at higher risk for severe COVID disease.
- Quarantine: Students and staff who are exposed to COVID are encouraged to get tested and monitor for symptoms. They are not required to quarantine unless they show symptoms.
- Positive COVID cases: If you test positive, you must stay at home (isolate) for at least 5 days. You can return to school if you test negative on or after day 5, are fever-free for 24 hours, and have resolving symptoms. Masking is strongly recommended upon return through day 10. If you do not test, you must isolate for a full 10 days.
Keeping our staff and students safe and healthy is our priority. Highline will continue to follow all DOH requirements and maintain current safety practices, including:
- Stay home when sick: If you have symptoms, stay home and get tested.
- Care rooms: Schools will continue to isolate students with symptoms in a care room until they can be picked up. PPE is required in care rooms and nurse clinics.
- Positive case notification: We will continue sending notifications of positive COVID cases.
- COVID testing: We will continue to provide access to COVID testing.
- Staff vaccination: Staff must be vaccinated for COVID unless they have an exemption. Boosters are not required.
- Student vaccination: We strongly encourage all students over age 5 to be vaccinated. We will continue to host vaccination clinics for students. Please visit our vaccination web page for vaccination opportunities.
- Ventilation: We continue to maintain upgraded ventilation systems.
- Physical distancing: We will maintain distancing to the extent possible.
- PPE: We will continue to provide appropriate PPE to staff and students
We recognize that while other safety measures remain in place, going to optional masks is a significant shift. We will respect each individual’s decision on masks. A mask or lack thereof will not limit a student’s participation in school, although masks may be required in some specific situations like athletics and instrumental music.
Please remember that if you want your student to wear a mask, they will be responsible for keeping their mask on. Staff will not be expected to remind students to put on or pull up their masks.
We know students will have a range of questions and reactions, from excitement to worry. We have developed class lessons to help students navigate this change.
We also encourage you to talk with your student. Here are some key points to discuss:
- There are many reasons why someone may choose to wear or not wear a mask. We should not judge or question another person’s choice.
- We are still in this pandemic together. It is important to show concern and kindness to one another.
- Schools will not tolerate harassment of any student over masks or anything else. Encourage your student to tell an adult if they witness or experience mistreatment or bullying.
As we have learned over the past two years, circumstances can change unexpectedly. Public health leaders may reinstate masking or other measures if cases or hospitalizations increase. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to your principal.
To share how you feel about masks being optional in school, please join our Thoughtexchange.