Seattle teachers union, some students oppose ending mask mandate

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) are receiving pushback after announcing the end of the mask mandate on Monday, March 14.

The lifted mask mandate is one of the first orders under Dr. Brent Jones, who the school board selected as their new superintendent on March 4. He had been serving as the interim superintendent since May 2021.

Jones put out a statement on March 9 regarding lifting the mask mandate. It said that while masks will become optional, additional layers of mitigation will remain in place.

These layers include available masks for students and employees who want to continue masking, physical distancing to the greatest extent possible, vaccine and booster access at SPS clinics, and air quality testing.

The Seattle Education Association (SEA) President, Jennifer Matter and Bargaining Chair, Uti Hawkins, put out a statement that lifting the mask mandate has shaken their trust in SPS.

“We are deeply disappointed by Seattle Public Schools’ masking announcement (on March 9) which is completely contrary to its prior statements and commitments to its educators and the community,” Matter and Hawkins said.

They further said that Jones will need to do better to improve relations with SEA.

“SEA was making progress in our relationship (with Jones) but we now have serious concerns about his leadership,” Matter and Hawkins said. “This does not bode well for future negotiations.”

Matter and Hawkins also noted that they had scheduled to bargain over the mask mandate on March 11, two days after Jones made the decision to lift the mandate.

The decision to lift the mandate has lead to some outrage from students as well. Luciana Lovik, a sophomore at Lincoln High School and Quincy Bash, a sophomore at Nathan Hale High School, are members of the Seattle Student Union. They were surprised the decision to lift the mandate was made so suddenly.

“I was not expecting (SPS) to lift it, especially how recently we had that big spike two months ago,” Lovik said.

Bash was under the impression that SPS would not lift the mask mandate.

“Not only are they going against what seems like what most students want, but also going against what the majority of their employees want,” Bash said.

Some students at Lincoln High School and Nathan Hale High School were wearing their masks improperly but Bash said teachers were going out of their way to ensure students feel safe from COVID-19.

“In the wake of this news, I’ve had teachers offer to give students their KN95 Masks to try and help them feel more comfortable,” Bash said. “Staff shouldn’t be expected to buy masks out of their own pocket.”

The Student Union put out in a statement on March 8 threatening a student walk-out.

Lovik and Bash say that one is planned for March 21. throughout all Seattle Public Schools.

Lovik says that they will be trying to coordinate with the Seattle teachers union to do a sick-out on March 21. as well.

The two students say they will both continue to wear their masks in school after the mandate is lifted.

This article was originally posted on Seattle teachers union, some students oppose ending mask mandate