School days are finally here — in a masked-up environment.
There was plenty of activity on the Mercer Island High School (MIHS) campus last week as students arrived and were split up into two groups of classes on separate days to have their photos taken, pick up textbooks and iPads and become apprised of clubs and activities.
This week, Mercer Island School District (MISD) students will hit the books in-person and full time beginning Sept. 1 for grades 1-12 and Sept. 3 for kindergartners. All students and employees will be required to wear masks in their buildings and on school buses.
In her letter to the MISD community on Aug. 18, Superintendent Donna Colosky said that Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation issued that day regarding adult COVID-19 vaccination requirements for those involved with K-12 district operations would not delay the school’s targeted return dates.
The proclamation requires that all state educators, staff, coaches, bus drivers, contractors, volunteers and others working in school facilities have until Oct. 18 to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment. Colosky added that people can submit a medical or religious exemption by that date.
All students are not required to be fully vaccinated, the directive notes.
“We know that a large percentage of our eligible students are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. When younger students are eligible (those under the age of 12), the district will once again look to partner with outside providers to make the COVID-19 vaccine even more accessible,” Colosky wrote.
In a press release, Inslee said, “It has been a long pandemic, and our students and teachers have borne their own unique burdens throughout. This virus is increasingly impacting young people, and those under the age of 12 still can’t get the vaccine for themselves. We won’t gamble with the health of our children, our educators and school staff, nor the health of the communities they serve.”
To further inform the school community on the back-to-school scenario, MISD Deputy Superintendent Dr. Fred Rundle, school nurses, principals and maintenance and operations team leaders will hold a “Safe Return to School” webinar from 5-6 p.m. Aug. 30. To attend, visit https://mercerislandschools.zoom.us/j/86094537841.
In the school’s 2021-22 COVID-19 Response Plan, Colosky greeted readers with an introductory message, which included, “As the new school year begins, we look forward to serving our students and giving our caring and dedicated educators the opportunity to help our students grow and reconnect with each other after the summer break and a very strange 2020-21 school year.”
Students, teachers and staff will doing so while masked indoors, but they may remove their masks while eating or drinking, and students will be given a “mask break” outside or in designated areas where physical distancing can be maintained, according to the response plan and the school district’s Learning Forward plan. All persons may remove their masks outdoors regardless of age or vaccination status, according to the Secretary of Health’s Mask Order as noted in the school district’s response plan.
On the status of students being allowed to remove masks outdoors, “The district continues to monitor, adapt, and amend its procedures and follow updated guidance from DOH (Department of Health),” according to the district’s Learning Forward plan.
When classes are in session, “Classrooms will be set up to meet the recommended 3 feet of physical distance while students are at their desks to the degree possible,” reads the Learning Forward plan.
On the school meeting front, the Mercer Island Education Association executive board will meet from 4:30-6 p.m. on Sept. 7 and the district board will meet from 6-9 p.m. on Sept. 9. For more details, visit https://www.mercerislandschools.org/.