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Kittitas School District schools opened this morning adhering to the district’s policy of acknowledging the state’s mask mandate but not policing the requirement on students.

Students will be allowed to return to school each day and attend class even if they refuse to wear a mask in the Kittitas School District, according to District Superintendent Angela Von Essen.

“We have to provide an education to our students. We will provide them with a mask, and remind them that they have to wear a mask. We will contact the parents,” Von Essen said. “But yeah, we have to provide an education to our kids and we are not going to send them home … but we are going to contact parents and give them a mask.”

However, if a student refuses to wear the mask provided, the district won’t do anything to enforce it. Children will not be sent to any kind of detention. Instead, the district will meet with the parents and explain the situation to them, and find out why the student is not wearing a mask.

Recently the district surveyed its families, asking if they want their child to be required to wear a mask at school. Von Essen said that of the roughly 650 students in the district, they received 496 responses. Although she did admit that because the survey was anonymous, it’s possible people submitted multiple surveys. The results of the survey, according to Von Essen, will be released the night of Sept. 8, or sometime Sept. 9, the first day of school.

This policy is the same one the Kittitas School Board approved during the Aug. 25 board meeting. Later that week, Superintendent Chris Reykdal of the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) called Von Essen.

“I just reassured him that we are (following the mandate), but he emphasized the policing of that, and I said ‘we will do what we have always done’ which is follow up, provide a mask, follow up with parents, but we are not sending children home,” Von Essen said. “I felt it was unsafe to just send children home and we need to educate them and not just put them in a room. We have duty to keep everybody safe … but we also have a duty to educate our kids, and how we do that may not look like another district.”

Von Essen said she asked Reykdal about information on guidelines for how they could address masking, and according to her, he responded by “reiterating” the fact that masking was a state mandate.

“We didn’t receive any specific guidelines on how to handle, what the state wants us to do for discipline or any kind of processes, but like I said, we are going to deal with it on a case by case basis with families and provide masks and keep on communicating the importance of wearing a mask,” Von Essen said.

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