LYNDEN – On July 28, the Washington State Department of Health announced that fabric face coverings (or masks) must be worn on school campuses by anyone, vaccinated or not, indoors and on school buses.
The mask’s mandate, along with other COVID-19 prevention strategies, is to “protect people who are not fully immunized,” Deputy Secretary Lacy Fehrenbach said in a Department of Health press release from July 28.
“It is important that we do everything possible to ensure the safety of our classrooms, healthy students and staff, and open schools,” she said.
Since the DOH announcement, Lynden and Nooksack Valley School District leaders have released statements to their respective students, families and staff explaining what the state’s expectations mean for their schools.
Lynden’s acting superintendent Mike Stromme said on July 29 that the mask mandate and other prevention strategies are a “state legal requirement that schools must follow.”
“Local school districts lack the capacity to implement less restrictive requirements,” Stromme said. “I know many students, parents and families wanted to eliminate mask requirements this fall. I am optimistic that over time we will be able to move towards a family choice concerning the wearing of the mask. Once again, public health boards will shape this path for us. “
In addition to the mask mandate (face covering), the Washington State Department of Health also said that to “protect those who have not been vaccinated and reduce the risk of transmission,” public schools and Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools should use the following multi-level prevention strategies:
-All school staff, volunteers, visitors and students should wear face coverings or fabric masks, regardless of vaccination status, indoors and on school buses.
-Schools should maintain a physical distance of at least three feet between students in classrooms, to the extent possible and reasonable, allowing full-time in-person learning for all students.
-Schools should have good ventilation and indoor air quality, cleaning and disinfection procedures, and continue to encourage frequent hand washing and good respiratory etiquette.
-Students and school employees who show symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu should stay home and see a doctor, which may include COVID-19 testing.
-Schools must have plans in place to respond quickly to COVID-19 cases among students and staff.
No other options at this time
Nooksack Valley Superintendent Matt Galley told his families on July 28 that while he was disappointed with the mask’s mandate, the decision “will not deter our daily in-person training plans from the 1st. September”.
“Like last year, we’re hoping the more restrictive guidelines are in place to start the year and relax with the weather,” Galley said. “Currently, there don’t appear to be any other options.”
Ferndale School District Superintendent Linda Quinn said last week the district has no plans to make an announcement to families in the district about the mask’s warrant.
“I don’t think we’ll write a letter just on this topic,” Quinn said. “We will let them know that advice will be on our website. “
Quinn also said the Ferndale School District intends to “follow the legal guideline.”
“We will follow the guidelines of the Department of Health and the state,” Quinn said.
How the mask’s tenure will affect the state’s K-12 sports teams has yet to be decided, WIAA Sports and Business Information Director Casey Johnson said on Monday.
“We are awaiting advice on masking and other COVID policies with respect to sports and activities from the governor’s office this week,” Johnson said.
“No news at the moment”
On August 2, the Lynden Christian School Board discussed the state’s mandate to mask the schools.
On Tuesday, Superintendent Paul Bootsma said the council “will explore options with respect to the governor’s requirements.”
“We have no news at this time,” Bootsma said. “The mandate of the mask is a mandate. “
Bootsma also said the Lynden Christian School Board will meet again in August to further discuss the July 28 guidelines.
Normally, the Lynden Christian School Board meets once a month, on the first Monday of each month.