COVID-19 FAQ

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be required for students?
There has been no indication from the Governor, the State Board of Health, or the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction that the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for students during the 2021-2022 school year.

Is a school district allowed to differentiate personal protective equipment (PPE) 

requirements for staff?

Yes. In fact the Department of Labor and Industries requires all employers to assign the type of PPE an employee uses based on the risk level of their assigned job responsibilities and vaccination status.  


Is it a discriminatory practice to require different PPE based on an employee’s vaccination status?

No.  A person’s COVID-19 vaccination status is not a protected category upon which discrimination can occur. Courts have upheld that differentiating requirements based on a person’s vaccination status is allowable even when their vaccination status is based on an individual’s religion.  If an employee believes they are a victim of harassment, intimidation or bullying the procedures outlined in Policy 5161- Civility in the Workplace or Policy & Procedure 5270PR- Resolution of Staff Complaints


What are the district’s responsibility regarding mitigating COVID-19 in our schools?

School districts must follow the Governor’s Proclamations and directives from WA Department of Health, Thurston County Public Health & Social Service, and Department of Labor & Industries - specifically quarantining protocols, close contact definitions, masking requirements, and testing requirements.  The district does not have flexibility in these areas, except to make our practices more stringent than the requirements.  


If an individual doesn’t agree with the directives set in place for school districts, where should advocacy for change be directed?


The Honorable Jay Inslee Governor, State of Washington 

Mailing Address:

Governor Jay Inslee

Office of the Governor

PO Box 40002

Olympia, WA 98504-0002

E-message to Gov. Inslee:

https://www.governor.wa.gov/contact/contact/send-gov-inslee-e-message

Call:

360-902-4111

TTY/TDD users should contact the Washington Relay Service at 711 or 1-800-833-6388.

Fax:

360-753-4110

Dr. Umair Shah Secretary, Washington State Department of Health

Mailing Address:

Secretary of Health

Dr. Umair Shah

111 Israel Rd SE

Tumwater, WA 98501

Email Address:

[email protected]

Call:

360-236-4030


Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek, Mailing Address: Health Officer, Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department

Mailing Address:

412 Lilly Rd. NE

Olympia, WA 98506-5132

Email Address:

[email protected]

Call: 360-867-2500


Joel Sacks, Director Department of Labor & Industries

Mailing Address:

PO Box 440000

Olympia, WA 98504-4000

Call: 360-902-5800

What can I do to help keep Rochester’s Schools Open?

Stay home when sick or told to quarantine.  Anyone who is ill or has been in close contact with someone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or has tested positive for COVID-19, should not come to school or school events.  


When will daily health screenings occur?

All students, staff, and visitors must self-screen prior to boarding a school bus, entering a school building, or attending a school activity.


What are the physical distancing requirements for schools? 

The Department of Health requires a physical distance of three (3) feet or more between students in classroom settings to the degree possible and reasonable. Schools are to expand the distance between students to the degree possible when they’re eating and during high-risk activities when increased exhalation or aerosolization occurs, such as PE or exercise, singing or playing instruments, and cheering or shouting. 


What happens when a student gets sick during the school day?

Each school will have a separate health room for any person with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. These spaces will be thoroughly disinfected using the CDC cleaning guidelines after each use. Standard health rooms will provide routine health services for any non-COVID-related issue. Parents/guardians/emergency contacts will be called to pick up students who are ill.


Are masks/cloth face coverings required inside schools?

Yes, cloth face coverings are required indoors.  All school personnel, visitors, and students must wear cloth face coverings, or an acceptable alternative (e.g., clear face covering or face shield with a drape), at school, when indoors in accordance with the Secretary of Health’s Mask Order.  Students may remove face coverings to eat and drink.


Staff who are verified to be fully vaccinated may be indoors without masks when students are not present or expected to be present. School districts must support compliance with mask requirements among staff, students, volunteers, visitors, and families. 


Are masks required while outside on school grounds?

No. Per the Secretary of Health’s Mask Order, face coverings are not required outdoors, regardless of vaccination status. Schools should support students and staff who choose to wear a mask or face covering outdoors. 


What should I do if my child is medically unable to wear a mask/face covering?

Contact the school nurse to initiate a 504 accommodation plan.  As prescribed by the Department of Health, the alternative to wearing a cloth face covering is wearing a face shield with a shoulder drape or wrap.  


What is the definition of a close contact in the school environment?

The Washington State Department of Health defines closes contacts as follows:

For students in K-12 classrooms 

Students who were wearing a mask and were within 3 feet of another student with COVID-19. Three to five days after exposure, COVID-19 testing is strongly recommended for students within six feet of a confirmed COVID-19 case. 

Anywhere else at school

Someone within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes over 24 hours. This includes exposure between a student and an adult or exposure between adults. 


Are COVID vaccinations required for students?

No.  The Department of Health recommends that students who are eligible receive the COVID-19 vaccine unless their medical provider advises otherwise.  However, the COVID-19 vaccine is not required for students.   


Are there benefits for students who are fully vaccinated?

Yes.  In addition to protection from the virus, vaccinated students can continue to attend school if they are a close contact with another person who tests positive for COVID-19, unless they show symptoms of the illness.  Athletes in high-risk indoor sports (basketball, wrestling & cheer) who are vaccinated are not required to participate in routine testing.  


When is someone considered fully vaccinated?

People are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 ≥ 2 weeks after they have received their second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer/Moderna), or ≥ 2 weeks after they have received their single-dose vaccine (J&J/Jansen).


Is COVID-19 testing available to students and staff?

Yes.  The district has access to an ample supply of mail-in and a limited number of rapid tests for students and staff who are symptomatic, have been identified as a close contact to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 or is required to test as a non-vaccinated participant in a high-risk indoor school sport (basketball, wrestling & cheer). Testing of students can only occur with parent permission.


How often are schools being cleaned? 

In addition to the evening cleaning of all classrooms, restrooms, and common use areas, each school has a daytime custodian who is responsible for the ongoing cleaning of high-touch surfaces and health rooms.


Are schools allowing parents, volunteers, and visitors in the school?

Parents are allowed to attend meetings, athletic contests, and visit the school office.  However, no volunteers are being utilized at this time. 


Who determines if a classroom or school is closed due to COVID-19?

The Governor can close school districts through an emergency declaration/order.  The Thurston County Health Officer can close individual classrooms, schools, or our district due to a localized outbreak. The health officer will consider closing a school if 10% of classrooms are quarantined.  The school district superintendent can close schools if there isn’t enough staff to safely operate.

 

When would a classroom be closed?

The health officer will consider closing a classroom if there are two or more COVID-19 cases among students or staff within a 14 day period, who are epidemiologically linked, do not share a household, and did not have a significant contact outside of school grounds.