Two school districts in the state of Washington have voted to make wearing a mask optional for students and staff members, breaking Democratic Governor Jay Inslee’s statewide rules on masks.
School board members in the city of Kettle Falls voted this week to lift the masking rules after Inslee said he would start easing some mask mandates. The district in Richland chose 3-2 to make masks optional.
In the announcement on Facebook, the School District stated that schools would be “in an emergency closure” on February 16 so school leaders could “plan a way forward.”
“We ask for your patience as this district works to guarantee our schools can keep serving all students,” the school district stated.
In reply to the Kettle Falls vote, the state government threatened that schools that break the mask mandates might lose their state funding, KREM-TV said. The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction informed Kettle Falls School District that not complying with the mandate might result in penalties.
“If KFSD doesn’t work to be in compliance with the mandate, I will take further actions as defined in the rules to keep or reduce their state funding,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said in a message to the district.
“You are aware that Stevens County has over 8,000 coronavirus cases, over 500 hospitalizations, and tragically over 120 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Stevens County is still the county with the lowest vaccination rate in Washington. I am very confident that without masking and in our communities, especially before vaccines were greatly available, the loss of life in the county would have been a lot worse.” the letter said.
A spokesman from the superintendent’s office stated that the school district willfully broke the mandate and will get a notice. If they don’t come back into compliance within 20 days, the state will keep a monthly payment and then lower funding until the schools are back into compliance.
“School board actions don’t supersede state laws, which are now being applied here using the best health practices and latest science,” Inslee media secretary Mike Faulk added in a comment to KREM.