Masks and More

March 9, 2022

Department of Health Guidance - Mask choice starting March 12

Starting on March 12, the state mask requirement is lifted. Mask use will now be a choice in all South Kitsap School District facilities, but not required. This includes school buses.


We honor each family and staff member’s right to choose to wear a mask or not. It will be vitally important that everyone is treated with kindness and respect, regardless of their choice.


The Department of Health released updated guidance on March 8. The most significant change is the end of the mask requirement. The majority of the other mitigation strategies remain in place at this time.


Thank you for your continued support and flexibility as we navigate these changes and updates.

What's Changing and What's Staying the Same

Reference the SKSD COVID Safety Page:


What's Changing
  • Masks – Starting March 12, mask use is a choice instead of required in SKSD facilities. There are some exceptions that are detailed in the blue box below.


What's Staying the Same

  • Daily Wellness Self Screening – No updated guidance. Every individual should assess their wellness each day and ensure they are free from COVID symptoms. If they are experiencing symptoms, they should stay home and seek testing.
  • Vaccines – The public school employee COVID vaccine requirement has not changed.
  • Staff with accommodations - We are working directly with staff who have vaccine accommodation in place.
  • Distancing – No updated guidance. SKSD will continue to maximize opportunities to maintain physical space between individuals to the degree possible during activities and interactions.
  • Group meetings – No updated guidance. Staff meetings with over 12 people should still be held via Zoom.
  • Testing - No updated guidance. Testing remains available for students and staff who are displaying symptoms. The Test to Stay program remains in place for those with known exposure. Testing will continue for high-risk athletics.
  • COVID Data Dashboard - No updated guidance. Notification of positive COVID cases is done through the website data dashboard. Click here.
  • Visitors - No updated guidance. Wellness attestation requested at check-in. Visitors are considered those on campus for less than 15 minutes.
  • Volunteers – No updated guidance. Volunteers are allowed in SK schools provided they follow COVID protocols. COVID vaccines are required for volunteers. Volunteers may or may not choose to wear a mask as of March 14, 2022.
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Resources

Here is a link to the full Department of Health Guidance March 7, 2022 document:

https://doh.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2022-03/821-165-K12SchoolsChildCare.pdf

Frequently Asked Questions

Why was this change made?

Data show rates of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining rapidly in our state, and public health models show that, by mid-March, cases and hospitalizations are predicted to drop to levels we haven’t seen since last summer. Masks impact the learning environment, and with widespread access to vaccinations, our expansive school COVID-19 testing program, and rapidly declining cases and hospitalizations, it was time to rebalance the benefits and challenges of universal masking in schools.


Will schools continue testing students and staff who show symptoms of COVID-19?

Yes. This announcement has no impact on the COVID-19 testing program.


Does it make a difference for masking if a student is vaccinated or not?

No. The statewide indoor mask requirements will be lifted for all students on March 11, regardless of vaccination status. Masks may still be required for those who recently tested positive for COVID-19, were identified as a close contact for someone with COVID-19, or for other reasons identified by the Department of Health or a local health officer.


Will the vaccination requirement for school employees change?

The Governor has not announced any intention of changing the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for school employees.


What about unvaccinated employees who received a medical or religious accommodation, and their accommodation requires a mask?

Barring updated guidance from the Department of Labor & Industries or the Department of Health, employees with accommodations should work with their Human Resources department on next steps.


What responsibilities does a school district have if there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a school?

School districts are required by state law to report cases and outbreaks to their local health officer. SKSD relies on the COVID data dashboard: https://www.skschools.org/learn-sk/covid-health-safety/covid-dashboard.


What if I want my student to continue wearing a mask?

Barring a local requirement for masks, students and staff will continue to have the option to wear masks at school, with the expectation that those decisions will be respected. Those decisions should not be used to make assumptions about their personal beliefs or their health status and should not be commented on. SKSD will not tolerate bullying of any kind of students or staff who continue wearing masks.


What is being done to protect students and staff who are at greater risk of COVID-19?

In-person learning requires a layered approach to COVID-19 safety planning, including daily self wellness screening, physical distancing when possible, vaccinations, frequent hand washing, cough and sneeze etiquette, and other safety practices. Each strategy complements the others and works in concert to mitigate the overall risk of transmission.


We will continue to assess our strategies and adapt our plan as we monitor community conditions. Questions related to COVID may be sent to covidhotline@skschools.org.