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COVID-19

Some Seattle students upset about district lifting mask mandate

Hand sanitizer, wipes, and blue disposable masks rest on a desk in a fourth-grade classroom.
Ted S. Warren
/
The Associated Press file
Hand sanitizer, wipes, and disposable masks rest on a desk in a fourth-grade classroom.

With Washington's statewide mask mandate ending this weekend, Seattle Public Schools officials announced this week that masks will also be optional for staff and students both inside and outside buildings and on school buses starting on Monday.

But some students are already pushing back.

Natalya McConnell, a sophomore at Franklin High School in south Seattle, says she and other students from various schools around the district formed the Seattle Student Union to stand up for COVID safety precautions. She says they successfully pushed for schools to provide N95 masks.

Now she and others are speaking up to say they want the mask mandate to stay in place.

“When one person doesn't wear a mask, it affects the entire community. It affects someone else. Public health officials have told us that masks protect other people more than they protect ourselves. ... So when people say that it's their choice, whether they wear a mask or not, that's plain selfish,” McConnell said, while referring to immunocompromised individuals specifically.

“When the mask mandate is taken away at school … it means they can bring COVID home to their families who could die or get seriously sick from COVID, even if students didn't get seriously sick from COVID,” McConnell continued.

The Seattle Education Association, the union for educators, issued a statement on Twitter noting that it was “deeply disappointed” in the decision to drop the mask mandate and that school officials had “unilaterally implemented this change,” violating the district’s contract with teachers.

In an email, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent of Public Affairs Bev Redmond said the district had discussed the change with Seattle Education Association leadership, who “expressed understanding of this potential change and a willingness to work together to bargain the impacts of the district's decision.”

The Washington state Department of Health says it will continue to monitor cases at schools and encourage testing as well as other preventative measures.

Seattle Public Schools, for its part, says while COVID cases have been declining, it might need to bring back the mandate or other restrictions in the future.

The Seattle Student Union says students could choose to walk out of schools for their own safety.

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COVID-19 COVID-19masksSeattle Public Schools
Lilly Ana Fowler reports on social justice issues for KNKX. She previously worked for the nonprofit news site Crosscut — a partner of KCTS 9, Seattle’s PBS station.