Washington updates school guidelines, clearing way for a return to in-person education

(Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool)
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks with kindergartners in Chelsea Singh's class during a visit to Firgrove Elementary School in Puyallup, Wash., Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Students are back in school and all teachers and students are wearing masks.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — During a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Governor Jay Inslee updated social distance requirements for Washington students K-12 in school-buildings to align with guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

By decreasing the required space between students from 6 feet to 3 feet, school districts throughout the state, including the Tri-Cities, will move forward with plans for a full-time, in-person education model.

“Today, I am ordering that we make this new standard available to all schools that want to adopt it. They can do this immediately — There is no waiting period,” Gov. Inslee said. “There are thousands of schools operating today under this guidance and operating safely.”

As the Governor mentioned, this decision is effective immediately. However, school districts in the Tri-Cities don’t anticipate a return to the full-time, in-person model until April — Likely after Spring Break.

Please be advised that schools are allowed to maintain a six-foot rule through the end of the school year if they feel inclined to do so. However, no school district will be allowed to maintain the six-foot rule moving into the Summer/Fall semesters.


Updated guidelines still advise certain precautions are taken in school environments. For example, a six-foot rule will remain in place during lunch for all students. Additionally, CDC guidance recommends 6 feet of distance between adult staff members. It also advises that staff members maintain six feet of distance from students.

At the middle and high school levels without cohorts, it’s still recommended that students be placed six feet apart. Furthermore, masks should continue to be worn to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in a community setting.

Remote/Distance learning is still going to be available in the state of Washington. Each school district will supply its own specific plans regarding how they’ll implement a remote/distance learning initiative in its classrooms.

More information will be provided by your school district in the coming days and weeks.


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