Seattle students breathing easier without mask mandate while union still pushes masks

(The Center Square) – Seattle Public Schools’ (SPS) newly appointed Superintendent Brent Jones presented his first state of the district address on March 15 with no mention of the lifted mask mandate.

SPS announced that its mask mandate would be lifted on March 14 and received pushback from some students, parents and teachers. Jones held a state of the district address the day after masks became optional in schools.

He talked to a small crowd in attendance about the SPS goals to increase graduation rates, educating students on diversity, and other topics to improve SPS schools. But Jones did not mention the lifted mask mandate.

Jones did acknowledge the challenges students have faced with the COVID pandemic.

“Let me be clear: the last several months have not been easy for our students and families,” Jones said. He talked about the resilience that students and staff showed with hybrid teaching methods that came in response of the COVID variants.

“Educators continuously adapted to remote, hybrid [learning environments] and together [SPS] have invested over $50 million in COVID mitigation,” Jones said. “We have served more than 13,500 students with our vaccination clinics and we have stablished that 79 percent of SPS students are fully vaccinated.”

Jones says that these statistics are something the school system can be proud of.

Despite these statistics, notable mask mandate proponents, the Seattle Education Association (SEA), are still going through with a rally on Wednesday March 16 in protest against masks becoming optional.

In a statement on various social media platforms, the union promoted its rally for SPS to listen to educators and students. They want participants to wear red as they demand the Seattle School Board return to masking.

Some staff at SPS made attempts to talk to students about adapting to the lifted mandate. Ballard High School’s acting principal, Dr. Joseph Williams III put out a statement to the BHS community regarding the school’s response to the newly lifted mandate.

“At Ballard High School, we will model, practice, and reinforce that wearing/not wearing a mask is now an individual choice and we will respect everyone’s individual decision,” Williams said. “I can assure you that any type of shaming of students who choose to continue wearing a mask at Ballard High School will not be tolerated.”

As students and staff adapt to the lifted mandate, SEA will try to disrupt this new status quo.