Students in Washington’s K-12 public schools can look forward to in-person classes in the fall.
The Washington Department of Health published guidance Thursday for schools when students return for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Masks still will be required for students.
“Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being,” the guidance reads. “They provide children with academic instruction, support for developing social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy, and opportunities for physical activity.”
The department said schools must offer “full time in-person education for all interested students.” That includes offering face coverings, ventilation, disinfected surfaces, protocols for responding to students or faculty who show symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and regularly report to state officials.
The state also will mandate physical distancing but cannot impede a school from offering all students an in-person learning experience.
Officials said the guidance could change by the time the school year is set to begin.
The edict, made in concert with Gov. Jay Inslee and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, comes as more residents become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. More than 6 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed. To date, 385,762 Washingtonians have contracted COVID-19, with the state’s Department of Health attributing 5,614 deaths to the disease.
State-based vaccination sites began offering adolescents ages 12-15 the Pfizer vaccine after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved it for those ages. The school guidance doesn’t give any reference to vaccination requirements.
Many schools in Washington have offered hybrid programs that saw students in classrooms for part of the week and learning remotely for the rest.
Parents who want their children to continue learning virtually in a school that no longer offers the option would be offered an alternative program.
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