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Seattle public schoolchildren could be required to wear masks until at least May, despite mandates being lifted in the state and county, as the school district negotiates further steps with the teachers union.
The union is arguing mask requirements bring a sense of “normalcy” to children.
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has lifted his state’s indoor mask mandate beginning March 11, including in schools, and King County will follow suit. Seattle Public Schools, however, announced in a recent statement that it would keep its mask mandate for students “until further notice.”
The district said it must negotiate with the Seattle Education Association (SEA) teachers union, “as required by the current collective bargaining agreement, to arrive at a mutually agreeable position regarding any permanent change to mask use requirements throughout the district.”
SEA President Jennifer Matter said the mask mandate shouldn’t be lifted until at least May 1, two weeks after students return from spring break.
“We believe there should be no rush to lift the mask mandate,” Matter told an NPR-affiliate.
“We have people who are immunocompromised, we have pregnant educators, we have educators who have children of their own that are under 5 years of age that cannot be vaccinated,” she said.
The SEA claimed in a statement that masks bring a “sense of safety and normalcy” to children.
“In our experience, universal required masking has been our most important in-classroom and in-building mitigation measure during this pandemic,” the statement read, FOX 13 reported. “Our students and educators have been wearing masks in schools for over a year now, and it has become routine and accepted. In fact, masks contribute to feelings of safety and normalcy that schools provide our students.
“Further, removing the mask mandate now fails the many students and educators who are immuno-compromised or pregnant, who live with someone who is, or who live with children under age 5 who cannot yet receive a vaccine,” it continued. “A large number of children under 12 remain unvaccinated with disproportionately higher numbers of those living in our more socially and economically diverse communities. It is important that with masking changes the voices of those most vulnerable to COVID be heard, Educators and Students alike.
“Their needs are historically dismissed in hasty moves to normalcy. The severity of their risk should never be lost in our transitions and SEA will ensure their concerns are seen for discussion through our labor negotiations.”
The SEA and SPS did not respond to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment.