Washington Releases New School COVID-19 Guidelines


The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released guidance for the 2021 summer school session and 2021-2022 school year. Under the updated guidance, schools must plan to provide full time in-person education for all interested students for the 2021-2022 school year with the following mitigation efforts:

• All students, school personnel, volunteers, and visitors must wear at least a cloth face covering or an acceptable alternative when indoors, as well as outdoors where a minimum of six feet distancing cannot be maintained.

• Schools must have basic ventilation, cleaning and infection control plans updated to reflect what is currently known about COVID-19.

• In preparation for the potential of COVID-19 infections while at school, schools must have a response plan in place that includes communication with staff, families, their school district, and local health jurisdiction.

• Schools should prepare to provide instruction for students who are excluded from school due to illness or quarantine.

• Physical distancing of at least three feet or more between students in classroom settings and at least six feet or more in most situations outside of the classroom to the degree possible is recommended. However, physical distancing recommendations should not prevent a school from offering full-time, in person learning to all students/families in the fall.

• While COVID-19 testing programs and vaccinations are not required for providing in-person learning, these measures can help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools and the broader community.

“Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being. They provide children with academic instruction, support for developing social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition and more,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “We are releasing this guidance early to give the schools districts in Washington the opportunity to put plans in place for a safe and successful 2021-2022 school year.”

In addition to mandatory mitigation efforts that schools must put in place, schools will need to follow all relevant Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery guidance with regards to extracurricular activities. This includes sporting activities, overnight camps, performing arts and special events.

DOH will continue to monitor the science, disease burden, and uptake of vaccination and periodically update the guidance accordingly.

Private and Public Schools must continue to follow existing guidance for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.