Masks: An open letter to the Tahoma community

Masks: An open letter to the Tahoma community
Posted on 08/18/2021
The following message was sent this morning to Tahoma families and staff.

Dear Tahoma family,

The first day of school is only two weeks away, and we are incredibly excited to see our students and staff on campus for full days of in-person learning on Sept. 1 (and our newest Tahoma kindergartners on Sept. 7).

Our schools are at their best when students and those supporting them can meet in person to provide not only an exemplary educational experience, but also to help our students grow into phenomenal adults who leave Tahoma fully equipped for lifelong success. We can best support every student, every day, in every classroom through in-person instruction. We cannot wait to see the support provided by our world-class staff, and the amazing things that our students do this school year.

Like most folks, we have been disappointed to see a rise in cases and the impact that the Delta variant has had on communities. In order to start the year in person – and remain in person – the Washington State Department of Health currently has indoor face mask requirements for all students, staff, volunteers and visitors. Since the pandemic began, we have followed the guidance of our state and local health officials, who are experts on this virus. They have provided us with protocols that they believe are the best ways to keep your children, their teachers and all of our Tahoma family safer.

In addition to DOH requirements, though, we are also required to act in accordance with the law. Under the authority of the Governor, Jay Inslee can require masks for students and staff in K-12 schools, which he has done. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction has made it clear that if our district does not comply with the masking requirement it will result in a halt of state funding for Tahoma. To provide context, our school district would not be able to operate for even one semester without that funding.

For parents and guardians who are nervous about sending your child to school while this virus continues to affect our community – we hear you. We are following – and will continue to follow – the guidance from health experts. Our experiences last year have shown that following the layered health and safety strategies required by the state limits transmission in schools.

For those with concerns about masks – we hear you, too. We understand that wearing a mask is less comfortable for some than not wearing one. Our compliance with this requirement is not in any way based on political stances or personal opinions. We encourage you to contact DOH, the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) or the Governor’s office to voice your concerns. Our team is available and happy to provide clarity about how DOH requirements will be implemented in our buildings. Tahoma will continue to follow the guidance of health officials and, in the best interest of our students and staff, we will obey the Governor’s proclamation, which carries the power of law.

As we have learned during the past 18 months, requirements from state and county health officials change rapidly. We will continue to monitor those recommendations and mandates, and will update our families, staff members and community of significant developments.

In partnership,
Mike Hanson, Superintendent
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