PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Washington Department of Health released updated guidelines for the 2021-2022 school year on Thursday.
Although safety precautions will still be in place, Washington schools will be required to provide full-time in-person education for all K-12 students who are interested. Schools will also need to adhere to state health measures regarding school activities, such as sports, camps, performance arts and others.
All private and public schools will continue to operate with the existing guidance in place for the remainder of the current school year.
“Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being. They provide children with academic instruction, support for developing social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition and more,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “We are releasing this guidance early to give the schools districts in Washington the opportunity to put plans in place for a safe and successful 2021-2022 school year.”
According to a DOH press release, the main points of the guidelines are as follows:
- All students, school personnel, volunteers, and visitors must wear at least a cloth face covering or an acceptable alternative when indoors, as well as outdoors where a minimum of six feet distancing cannot be maintained.
- Schools must have basic ventilation, cleaning and infection control plans updated to reflect what is currently known about COVID-19.
- In preparation for the potential of COVID-19 infections while at school, schools must have a response plan in place that includes communication with staff, families, their school district, and local health jurisdiction.
- Schools should prepare to provide instruction for students who are excluded from school due to illness or quarantine.
- Physical distancing of at least three feet or more between students in classroom settings and at least six feet or more in most situations outside of the classroom to the degree possible is recommended. However, physical distancing recommendations should not prevent a school from offering full-time, in-person learning to all students/families in the fall.
- While COVID-19 testing programs and vaccinations are not required for providing in-person learning, these measures can help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools and the broader community.
The DOH will continue to monitor any COVID-19 developments and will update guidance as necessary.