COVID-19: Questions & Answers about Mask Use in K-12 Schools
Last Updated 10/12/2021
Q: What is required of teachers and staff in a K-12 school facility when students are present?
All fully vaccinated and unvaccinated teachers and staff must wear a cloth face covering when working indoors around students or the public, unless a more protective mask is required.
Q: Who else needs to mask up in schools?
All fully vaccinated or unvaccinated bus drivers, coaches, volunteers, and contractors providing goods or services must wear a cloth face covering when working indoors around students or the public, if a more protective mask isn’t required by L&I.
Schools are also required to make sure parents, visitors, and children/students who are 5 years and older wear a cloth face covering indoors at schools.
Q: Can employees required to wear a cloth face covering choose to wear something more protective?
Yes. Employees, by law, have the right to voluntarily use a medical procedure mask, KN95, or even an N95 instead of using a cloth face covering as long as using a more protective mask is safe.
Q: What if students or the public are NOT present indoors?
Teachers and staff who have verified their fully-vaccinated status may opt to not use a cloth face covering indoors where students or the public are not present, unless the school requires it.
Unvaccinated teachers and staff must wear at least a cloth face covering when working around any coworker or other person, unless a more protective mask is required by the employer or L&I.
Q: How about mask use outdoors?
Use of a cloth face covering isn’t required outdoors, regardless of an employee’s vaccination status; however, use is strongly recommended for unvaccinated employees in crowded settings. Also, employers may choose to require mask use outdoors even when L&I doesn’t.
Q: When a fully vaccinated employee isn’t required to use a mask, can they opt to wear one anyway?
Yes. Such employees, by law, have a right to voluntarily use a cloth face covering or other type of mask as long as it’s safe.
Q: Can schools mandate mask use, regardless of vaccination status?
When mask use isn’t required by LNI, schools may still choose to require all employees to wear masks in any or all situations, regardless of vaccination status.
Q: May teachers and staff seek a medical, disability, or religious exemption?
Yes. Any employee may contact their local school district to seek a medical, disability, or religious exemption from the required use of a cloth face covering. If exemptions from mask use are granted, other mitigating measures would be required to ensure safety.
For questions about vaccination requirements and exemptions, please see COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for School Employees: Frequently Asked Questions (www.k12.wa.us).
Q: Is anything else required besides mask use?
Yes, additional COVID-19 risk-reduction measures may be required, depending on the hazard assessments school must conduct.
As indicated in L&I’s Requirements and Guidance for Preventing COVID-19 (F414-164-000), additional steps may include:
- Continuing distancing between employees and between employees and students, where feasible;
- Maximizing fresh air and air filtration settings on HVAC systems, and adding filtration in areas with poor ventilation;
- Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance & Resources from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)