Back to School in Kittitas

Students wait in line with their parents to be screened and checked-in to school on the first day of school his past September at Kittitas Elementary School. Kittitas students return to school on Sept. 9.

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The Kittitas School Board and Superintendent stated Wednesday night that while they will be enforcing the state's mask mandate, they will not be policing it.

Students and staff in Washington state schools are required to wear masks in the building this fall.

“Right now the mandate is you got to wear it (the mask). That’s the mandate but we don’t enforce, we’re not cops,” said board Vice-Chairman Brian Stickney.

Superintendent Angela Von Essen said, multiple times during the board meeting, if a student came to school without a mask, the school would not turn the student away. In an interview with the Daily Record after the meeting, she explained that staff would remind the student and his/her family of the policy, but that was about all they could/would do.

“We will just remind the parent that their child needs to wear a mask. That is the requirement of the state. However, they’re in our care and at this point, to force a child to wear a mask, if a parent has directed their child to not wear one, our job is to remind the parent that the student needs to wear a mask,” Von Essen said. “I can’t send a child home to a home where there is not a parent there. I can’t put them in a room to wait for a parent is not logical. We’re here to educate our students, and I want them in the classroom, I want them learning. They deserve it.”

Stickney asked Von Essen how the district would respond to a parent who is upset that not all students are wearing masks. Von Essen said they would have to tell that parent it’s not up to the school, but to that student's family.

Von Essen elaborated on this in the interview after the meeting where she said if a family had a complaint about students not wearing masks, the district will look into the complaint and “address it accordingly.”

“We’re not trying to be disobedient and not follow the law, we clearly understand, but singling out students and having them sit in the office while the parent makes a decision whether or not they can get off work, or to get them a mask,” Von Essen said. “We will have extra masks for students if it gets damaged or they forgot one. Our intent is to follow the rules.”

Von Essen had written a survey, for district families to give the schools their opinions on the masking update, and guide the board's actions in the next school year. Von Essen brought the copy of the survey to the board meeting for the board to look over, but they all agreed it looked good and is ready to be sent out.

The survey will be emailed to families of the district in the next couple days, and will be posted online around the same time. Von Essen said it will remain on the district webpage for about a week.

“We will vote and do the best we can based on what the community wants,” said Stickney. “There is nobody here on the board that has a personal agenda against this COVID issue. So we will be listening, so please make sure everyone fills it out, because if you don’t vote so you can’t complain.”

During the public comment section of the board meeting, everyone who spoke made it clear they didn’t want students to be forced to wear a mask in school. People brought up the mental health of students, asked how much state funding the district would loose if they went against the mandate and brought up that the school should be thinking outside the box for “solutions” to the mandate.

Board Chairman Mike Lowe said, that if the state is able to hold funding over our head for something like this, then people should be worried about what the state would do in the future.

“When we think about mandates and what else is going on, don’t just think about masks and vaccines, think about what else they are going to mandate us to teach to your kids in the future, and hold funding over our head,” Lowe said.


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