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February 18, 2022 Update

February 18, 2022 Update
Jo Moccia

Dear South Whidbey Staff, Students and Families:

Yesterday, February 17, 2022,  Governor Jay Inslee announced that we are approaching, but have not yet reached, the finish line regarding masking and other requirements in schools.

I know that the information contained herein will please some and scare others as we continue to move toward COVID becoming endemic.  Over the past two years, we have navigated the guidance from federal, state, and local authorities. Thank you for remaining diligent in fighting this pandemic. 

The Governor announced that the statewide indoor mask requirement for Washington state, including in our K–12 schools, is scheduled to end on March 21, 2022. Once the statewide requirement is lifted, masks will be encouraged in our school buildings, but not required. Masks will still be required on school buses per a federal mandate that requires masks to be worn on all forms of public transportation.

Until March 21st, masks will continue to be required for all students, staff, and visitors in all South Whidbey School District buildings. Masks will continue to be provided for those who do not have them, and students who will not wear masks will be sent home. South Whidbey School District and our Board of Directors do not have local control over this matter. We are legally required to follow the Governor’s directive, which currently requires masks in school buildings.

Public health modeling indicates that cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 will continue decreasing over the coming weeks, dropping to rates similar to last summer. The decision to remove the statewide mask requirement was based on the best science and research available, as well as our experience and preparation to continue combatting this virus.

Across the state, school districts have prepared for these changes over the past two years with:

  • A COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all school employees,
  • Vaccinations for individuals ages 5+ widely available,
  • One of the most robust school COVID-19 testing systems in the country,
  • Improved ventilation systems, and
  • A well-researched understanding of self-mitigation protocols.

Once the statewide mask requirement lifts, without a new requirement from our local health department, masks will become optional in our school buildings. 

Students 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 and for those who choose not to wear a mask. 

We will provide more information about how we will support our children and the choices families make around masking once it becomes optional on March 21. For now please help us all reach that point gracefully by continuing to comply with the mask and distancing mandates.

We thank you for your continued flexibility as we navigate this pandemic together. We know you likely have many questions about this announcement, and we are anticipating receiving additional information from public health officials and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)  in the coming weeks. We will continue communicating with you as we learn about changes to the guidance for our district. 

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Jo Moccia, Superintendent