Kittitas Parents and Community,
On Friday, I received the email below from the Kittitas County Health Department threatening to close our schools for 14 days due to not strictly enforcing Governor Inslee's face mask mandate, canceling school and activities until September 27, 2021, and extending our school year to July 1, 2022. A school board member confirmed with Dr. Larson that the information stated below is based on what was reported to him by school district staff members, and he was unsure of the validity of the statements.
I stated publicly on numerous occasions that we would follow the mandate, and the School Board did not make a decision or policy to ignore the mask mandate. Our students need to be in the classrooms. We did not want students singled out and put in a holding area to be picked up by their parents, nor do we want our families to be told their child(ren) can no longer attend Kittitas School District. The State's options for parents are to home school their child(ren) or to find an online school, which is a disservice to our Community.
After learning of the threat by the Health Department, the School Board held an emergency meeting Friday afternoon to discuss Dr. Larson's email. We cannot risk our students’ education over wearing a face mask. The School Board directed me to strictly enforce the face mask mandate so that we can continue to educate our students without disruption.
Dr. Larson agreed to our request to keep our schools open, as long as the District enforces the face mask mandate and test students that did not wear a face mask on the first two days of school for COVID. With the parent or guardian’s consent, those students must be tested on Monday and Thursday of next week with a negative test result to stay in school. Here is the link to the Rapid Test Consent Form. The Rapid Test is offered at the elementary and high schools at no cost to the families. The administration will be available at each school to collect the consent forms and test students before they enter the building.
All staff and students must adhere to the face mask mandate. If a student refuses to wear a face mask or wears it improperly while indoors, they will be sent to the office to be picked up by their parent or guardian. After the second offense, the student will no longer be enrolled in the Kittitas School District. If a staff member does not wear a face mask or wears it improperly while indoors, they will be subject to disciplinary action.
Strictly enforcing the face mask mandate will keep our schools open. We look forward to seeing our students on Monday, September 13th!
Your cooperation and support are appreciated!
---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Mark Larson <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, Sep 10, 2021 at 6:43 AM
Subject: Kittitas School District Outbreak
To: Angela Von Essen <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Tristen Lamb <email@example.com>
Superintendent Von Essen;
You currently have uncontrolled spread of Covid-19 in the Kittitas School District.
The Kittitas School Board made the decision to follow the mask mandate, but not to enforce the mask mandate.
The consequence of their decision was that approximately 30% of the children did not wear masks yesterday, the first day of school.
This has made it impossible to do case and contact investigation of active cases in the KSD.
As such, we have to consider all students, staff, and teachers to have been exposed.
The decision made by the Kittitas School Board has put the health of students, teachers, staff and families at risk.
My recommendations are as follows;
Full District closure of 14 days.
This can be shortened to 7 days if all returning staff and students test at 7days.
This closure includes in person education and all extracurricular activities.
Masks are mandatory in all schools in Washington state.
Send home all children and staff who refuse to mask today.
Development of a robust safety policy over the closure period. This would include but is not limited to;
Mandatory mask policy
Compliance with all OSPI, WA DOH, KCPHD guidance, and mandates.
Development of your case and contact capabilities.
KCPHD is committed to helping KSD in developing your safety policies.
All students, staff, and faculty in the KSD should be in quarantine for 14 days or 7 days with a negative test.
Exception: Vaccinated students, staff and faculty do not need to quarantine. They should watch for symptoms and test at 3-5 days.
If this recommendation is not followed by close of business today, I will write a Health Order under my duties under state law. RCW 70.05.070 https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=70.05.070
Mark Larson, M.D.
Kittitas County Public Health Department