As Interim Superintendent of the Bellevue School District, I want to offer a clear statement in response to the Governor Jay Inslee’s statement that he will remove the state mask mandate, effective March 21, 2022. To begin, we are waiting for the details and clarifications promised by the Governor and Washington State Superintendent of Schools, Chris Reykdal. Secondly, we will continue to work with both the Washington State Department of Health and Public Health — Seattle & King County. We do not have their guidance at this time and expect it will be provided by March 7.
The removal of the mask mandate is a complex issue with implications that cannot be decided by a school district in isolation. It is clear that we do not have the authority to abandon present OSPI and Governor’s mandates, by prematurely sharing information that has not taken all aspects of public health into consideration for the safety of our entire community. Our district’s Health and Safety Team is currently working on staff recommendations for our schools, to align with state and local requirements. They have promised to provide us with key information and data in the next few weeks, and we will wait for that guidance and necessary rule changes.
It is my intent to have a phased approach to ending the mandated masking requirements and provide a plan for the Bellevue School District that supports an individual’s decision on mask-wearing. This phased approach will be dependent on local and state health requirements, which have yet to be defined. We want to ensure that students’ needs and the needs of our school district are fully considered, and that staff have the appropriate time to plan for the changes and their impact. Masks will no longer be required outdoors, starting March 7. Additional plans will address issues that include interior spaces, classrooms, common spaces, athletics and activities, elementary students, secondary students, vaccination status, special needs, staff safety, and many, many more specifics. We will share finalized plans when all public health agencies have published guidance and will communicate additional information, the week of March 7.
When students and staff return from mid-winter break on February 28, the following restrictions, put in place in January to keep schools open, will be lifted:
- Our campuses will reopen to visitors.
- Large group meetings will resume in person.
- Student field trips, assemblies, and other extracurricular activities will be allowed.
- Outdoor masking will become optional on March 7
Our school district and community have pulled together strongly this school year, and we are emerging together after a challenging time for our district, state, and country. We will continue to strive to strike the right balance between adhering to all relevant laws, being guided by our local health authorities, and being sensitive and responsive to the needs of our community. I am proud to have the honor of serving you in this time and will do my best to ensure that we navigate what we hope will be the last major turn in the pandemic well.
Dr. Art Jarvis
Bellevue School District 405