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Seattle Public Schools will no longer require students, staff to wear masks starting March 14

Masks will be optional for students and staff. However, the district said masks are strongly encouraged.

SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools (SPS) announced it will lift its mandatory mask requirement March 14.

SPS said face masks will be optional indoors and outdoors for students, staff, volunteers and visitors. Masks will also be optional on school buses. The current masking rules will be in effect through March 13.

Though masking will be optional inside SPS buildings starting March 14, SPS Superintendent Brent Jones said masking is still strongly encouraged by students and staff.

SPS said masks will still be required for students who use King County Metro or other public transportation to get to school.

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The relaxed guidance from SPS comes after Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state would lift its indoor mask mandate beginning March 12. King County will also end its indoor mask mandate at 11:59 p.m. on March 11.

“As we have since the onset of COVID-19, Seattle Public Schools follows the guidance of Public Health on health and safety,” Jones said in a statement. “While Public Health is no longer mandating masks, masking is an individual choice. We won’t tolerate shaming or judging anyone in our schools for wearing a mask or not wearing a mask.”

While COVID-19 cases are falling in King County, SPS said “there may be times when we will need to bring back effective mitigations if there is an increase in community, classroom, or school-wide transmission.”

SPS said other layers of medication will remain in place after the mask requirement is lifted, including vaccine and booster access at SPS clinics, protected health care rooms, COVID-19 testing opportunities, physical distancing to the greatest extent possible and increased air ventilation and air quality testing.

"We understand that there are different beliefs, opinions, reasons, and comfort levels around masking, yet it is important to be patient and respect the personal choices of others," SPS said in a statement.

SPS is the largest school district in Washington state, with approximately 50,000 students.

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Department of Health updates mask guidance

Though the Washington state Department of Health is no longer recommending masks be universally worn in schools beginning March 12, a few requirements for schools will remain in place.

Schools and childcare providers must still report COVID-19 cases and outbreaks. Additionally, people with symptoms must isolate for at least five days and "should" wear a mask or receive a negative test if they return to the classroom between six to 10 days, according to DOH.

Schools may implement more requirements at "any time" or in response to an outbreak, according to DOH.

“In-person education and care are valuable to social and emotional health,” said state Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah. “This new guidance focuses on ways to meet critical state public health requirements while also focusing on keeping kids in school and childcare.”

Updated requirements from the state can be found here.

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