OLYMPIA — Washington authorities said Thursday all schools in the state must provide full-time, in-person education for students for the 2021-22 school year and that students and staff will still be required to wear masks.
The Washington state Department of Health released guidelines that included mitigation efforts they said were designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The mask directive could prove controversial, as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday moved to ease indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people.
The new federal guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.
Currently people over the age of 12 are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Washington state.
About 1.1 million students attend public schools in Washington state.
“Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being. They provide children with academic instruction, support for developing social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition and more,” said Dr. Umair A. Shah, the Washington secretary of health.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed an emergency proclamation in March requiring all public K-12 schools to provide an in-person learning option for all students by April 19. In March of 2020, at the beginning of the pandmemic, Inslee ordered all schools to close.
The Washington state schools directive for fall calls for all people in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors — as well as outdoors if six feet of distancing can’t be maintained.
The other mitigation measures include requiring basic ventilation, cleaning and infection control plans, recommending physical distancing of at least 3 feet in classrooms and six feet outside of classrooms.
State authorities are recommending COVID-19 vaccinations and testing programs but are not requiring them for in-person instruction in the fall.