Dear LWSD Staff/Families:
Today, I want to share with you an update regarding changes in guidance from the Department of Health.
- I’ll be sharing about all of the layers of protection that continue to be in place such as staying home when sick and isolating when testing positive for COVID.
- I’ll share details about the choice of whether to mask or not, with the exception of our health and isolation rooms.
- I’ll also share information about changes to quarantine protocols.
- Additionally, I’ll share the continued vaccination requirement for employees, contractors and volunteers.
Watch this update as a video message:
As students and staff return to school next week, we will begin a new phase of our response to COVID. Students and staff, with very few exceptions, will now have the choice of whether to wear a mask or not while on school district campuses.
This change may prompt a variety of emotions in each of us and we want to acknowledge that those emotions are okay and understandable. The past two years have been incredibly challenging as we continually have been asked to change and adapt to different behaviors and restrictions in order to navigate the pandemic as a community.
Over the past two years, Lake Washington has consistently followed the guidance and direction of the Washington State Department of Health and Seattle | King County Public Health. We continue to follow the guidance and direction of those public health agencies as they provide schools with updated guidance for this next phase of COVID response.
Before I talk about the changes that students and staff can expect to see as they return to schools next week, I want to share that our response to COVID has been built upon many layers of protection. In most cases, those layers are not changing and will continue to be important as we move forward.
- Primary among these layers is vaccination. LWSD has partnered with community health providers to support access to vaccinations against COVID and will continue to do so.
- Please note that the vaccination requirement for employees, contractors and volunteers remains in effect per the Governor’s order.
- Testing is another important layer and LWSD is continuing to offer four testing sites at our comprehensive high schools and is increasing supplies of rapid tests at all of our schools.
- Staying home when sick continues to be critical and the guidelines for isolating when testing positive for COVID remain in place. Students and staff returning from isolation should test or mask in order to return after five days.
- LWSD will continue to report positive cases to our community and Public Health.
- We will continue to maintain good ventilation and cleaning and disinfecting practices in our buildings.
- Finally, good hand hygiene continues to be important to help from not only getting sick from COVID, but from getting sick from other illnesses that are around this time of year.
- Students and staff can choose whether to wear masks or not to wear masks in the majority of situations
- We ask all students, staff and visitors to respect the choices of others about when and where they mask or don’t mask
- There are many reasons why people may continue to wear a mask
- Students or staff with medical issues are encouraged to consult with their doctor about whether it makes sense for them to continue masking
- Students and staff will be required per Department of Health guidelines to mask when in the health room or isolation (Q) room as these are considered medical areas
Our communication to staff and students emphasizes the concepts of choice, reasons, and respect when it comes to wearing masks.
Some families may choose to share their preference for masking with school staff, however, families should be aware that school staff and teachers will not notify or remind students of their family’s preference. School staff and teachers will also not separate students based on their individual choice to mask or not mask.
The Department of Health identifies additional areas where masks are recommended, but not required. These may be areas where students and staff want to consider wearing masks:
- When riding on school buses
- When engaged in performing arts
- When participating in indoor athletic activities
- The Department of Health is no longer requiring that close contacts quarantine regardless of vaccination status.
- People who were potentially exposed to COVID-19 should be encouraged to:
- Monitor for symptoms
- Consider wearing a mask
- Get tested 3-5 days after exposure
- And, if symptoms emerge then stay home and notify the school.
Staff, contractors and volunteers in school:
There are no changes at this time to the Governor’s Proclamation 21-14.3. It’s important to note that any staff that are currently on an approved vaccination exemption are expected to continue to follow the accommodations outlined in the exemption approval. Volunteers at this time are still expected to be vaccinated in order to volunteer in person.
Finally, while we all hope that these changes mark a turn of the tide with COVID, the Department of Health has indicated that there may be circumstances, such as an outbreak, where a mask requirement or other COVID-19 mitigating measures could be reinstituted.
I want to thank all our students, families, and staff who have continually been willing to take the steps necessary and to adapt to changes in dealing with COVID-19.
Dr. Jon Holmen, Superintendent
Lake Washington School District
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