Moving To Mask Optional Starting March 14
From the onset of the pandemic, St. John has committed to following health guidance, policies, and mandates provided by state, local, and Archdiocesan leaders. We learned last week Governor Jay Inslee is lifting mask requirements beginning on March 12, 2022. King County will not be extending a local mask order for schools beyond the state’s order. As such, beginning Monday, March 14, masks will be optional for all students, faculty, and staff (both indoors and outdoors).
Moving to a mask optional campus does not mean COVID is over. It is very reasonable for students or staff to continue to mask if there is increased risk of COVID, are in contact with someone at high risk, or out of consideration for people who may be at higher risk. The school will support families and staff that make the choice to continue mask-wearing.
Making masks optional is the first step in adapting our COVID-19 mitigation strategies. The school is awaiting updated guidance from the Washington State Department of Health—the week of March 7—for K-12 schools specifically. This guidance will likely include details on testing, isolation/quarantine, space capacities, social distancing, performance/athletic requirements, lunchroom, etc. The school will share this information. The school, again, asks for your patience as the COVID Response Team evaluates and determines the next steps in implementing any new guidance. The guidance from the Department of Health, Public Health – Seattle & King County, and the Archdiocese of Seattle could influence or change our mask trajectory or mitigation strategies at any time.
Masks optional is a big shift from the routine our community has grown accustomed to over the past two years. Students and families may experience a variety of emotions as we all navigate these changes. Together we have worked as a community to reach this point and to keep our community safe and open – for this, we thank you! The school remains committed to ensuring a safe and healthy learning environment for our students, faculty, and staff. It goes without saying we need to remain flexible and ready to pivot if COVID case numbers rise at school and/or in the community, if a new variant emerges, or if public health guidance changes.
We would like to address some questions that this announcement may have prompted:
Can we dispose of our masks? No. In fact, the school recommends your child continue to keep a supply of masks in their backpack. There may be circumstances that require students to mask (returning from quarantine, not feeling well at school, interacting with at-risk student/adult, field trips, etc.).
Can students take masks off at recess before mask mandate is lifted? To reduce confusion and multiple policy changes in a short span of time, students are to remain masked at recess until mandate is lifted on March 12.
What happens if my child(ren) wants to keep wearing a mask and/or I want my student(s) to wear a mask? The school is committed to supporting families and staff that make the choice to continue mask-wearing. Staff will be talking with students about respecting each individual/family’s decisions, and any ridicule or stigmatization will not be tolerated. However, staff will not be able to monitor who does or does not wear a mask. That will be the responsibility of each student.
What happens if my student feels unwell at school? Staff will call home, and the student will be asked to wear a mask until collected by a parent. The family will be sent home with a rapid test and asked to test before returning to campus.
What happens if my student feels unwell at home? Please remain vigilant in monitoring your student(s) for symptoms and keep students home if they are not feeling well. Students should be given a rapid test before returning to campus. Families can secure testing kits from the main school office at any time.
Will testing remain available at school? The school will continue to have testing available (both rapid and PCR testing) at school to support families.