Tug of war was one of the many games youngsters played at the PT School Party, a celebration for local students, teachers and families in the Port Townsend School District. A large crowd turned out for the event at Blue Heron Middle School, where relay races, free clam chowder, cookies and DJ’d music flowed through the afternoon. Students and staff at all Olympic Peninsula Schools will have the option to wear masks indoors or not now the state mandate has been lifted. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Tug of war was one of the many games youngsters played at the PT School Party, a celebration for local students, teachers and families in the Port Townsend School District. A large crowd turned out for the event at Blue Heron Middle School, where relay races, free clam chowder, cookies and DJ’d music flowed through the afternoon. Students and staff at all Olympic Peninsula Schools will have the option to wear masks indoors or not now the state mandate has been lifted. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Masking optional in classes

Public schools set policies after state mandate lifted

Wearing face masks against COVID-19 is optional beginning today at North Olympic Peninsula school districts, in accord with the lifting of the masking mandate statewide on Saturday.

The lifting of the mask mandate “is great news for many, and concerning for many others,” Frank Redmon, Quilcene School District superintendent, acknowledged in a letter on the district website, qsd49.org.

At all the districts, other mitigation measures — such as sanitation and offering tests and masks — will stay in place. Masks will not be required but recommended on school buses.

Health officers statewide recommend that masking be continued indoors while counties remain in the moderate risk or above category.

Both Clallam and Jefferson counties, which reported case rates below 200 per 100,000 population but above 100 cases per 100,000 on Friday, are in the moderate range.

“Masking is still recommended indoors while there is moderate or high COVID activity in our county,” said Port Townsend Superintendent Linda Rosenbury.

Superintendents across the region counseled students and staff to respect the choices made by others, saying that bullying would not be tolerated.

“Students and staff who choose to wear masks are fully supported in that decision,” Redmon said.

Said Diane Reume, superintendent of the Quillayute Valley School District in Forks: “We really want to respect the diverse needs of our staff and students. Some feel they should be wearing the masks.

“We will monitor that everyone is respectful about others,” she said.

Joan Zook, interim superintendent for the Sequim School District, made a point of noting at a recent school board meeting that the district will not allow bullying toward those who choose to wear masks or those who choose not to.

She said school officials are predicting an uptick in COVID numbers following the “unmasking.”

“We hope that we don’t have any serious issues,” Zook said.

Crescent School Superintendent David Bingham in Joyce noted that those who choose not to mask “may have underlying conditions or frequent contact with friends and family members who might have underlying conditions.”

In the Chimacum School District, superintendent Scott Mauk said the changeover will be awkward. Teachers and staff will be working with colleagues and students who may be immunocompromised and have other medical issues, so they will want to keep masking.

“In the pandemic phase of this, we were masking to protect ourselves and other people,” Mauk told the Chimacum School Board last week.

“In the endemic phase, we are masking to protect ourselves,” depending on medical conditions and comfort level.

“Students and staff who choose to wear masks are fully supported in that decision,” Redmon said.

As in other schools, masks still will be provided to those who wish to wear them, added Alicia Simmons, administrative assistant at the Brinnon School District.

Cape Flattery School District could not be reached for comment for this story.

Port Angeles School District scheduled a snow day today and so will begin the new system on Tuesday.

Superintendent Marty Brewer, speaking the week before last in a Zoom meeting, also emphasized the need for all to respect the choices of others.

As an example, he spoke of he and his wife. He plans to continue wearing a mask while his wife, he said, probably won’t.

“We’re moving away from government mandates,” Brewer said.

“It has been turned over to you and me to make our own personal decisions on how we want to navigate the COVID experience.”

________

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

Contributing to this story were Peninsula Daily News’ Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz and Managing Editor Brian McLean and Sequim Gazette Editor Michael Dashiell.

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