SPONSORED 16 minutes ago Superintendent threatens to withhold funds from school districts over violation of mask mandates The Washington state Office…

A school board in Washington state voted Monday night to make masks optional for students and staff effective immediately in spite of Democrat Governor Jay Inslee’s existing mandates. Another school board followed suit Tuesday afternoon and now the state may withhold funding from both districts for violation of the order.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction sent a letter warning the district that funding may be withheld if they do not comply with the mask mandate, according to local news.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal urged the governor to make masks optional in the classroom. Inslee announced plans at a press conference last week to start easing some mask restrictions and on Thursday will outline the full details.

Reykdal said, “It’s time to make the next transition in this pandemic and that is likely a mask optional but our schools are ready to make this transition.”

After the school boards voted, Reykdal said in the letter, “If KFSD does not take action to be in compliance with the mandate, I am prepared to take further steps as defined in the rules to withhold, and eventually reduce, state funding.”

A spokesperson for OSPI told KREM 2, districts that willfully violate the mandate will get an official notice and if the issue is not corrected within 20 days, the state will withhold a monthly payment and reduce funding until the action is corrected.

On Tuesday afternoon, The Richland School district voted 3-2 for “Mask Choice,” to make the wearing of face masks option optional for those in the districts facilities.

Several hours after the action was taken, the district announced an “emergency closure” for Wednesday, citing the vote. Speculation among parents of students in the district was that the board was reconsidering following the threats made to the Kettle school district, as well as concerns among some in the district that there would be pushback to the vote among others about repealing the mask rules.

The Richland school board met for hours on Wednesday in closed session after the OSPI gave the district notice that just like Kettle Falls, they had up to 20 days to reinstate the mask mandate or lose state funding. Though no change to the previous vote was announced, the district cancelled classes again.

Kettle Falls School District Superintendent Michael Olsen told King 5 that the district is prepared to use cash reserves if the state withholds money, but that will only last about four to six weeks.

“If Gov. Inslee’s timeline is mid-March, that would be after OSPI started withholding our apportionment. So, in order to continue not wearing masks, we would need to be able to rely on some of our cash reserves to get us through until we receive that apportionment back.”

Governor Inslee’s Press Secretary Mike Faulk said in a statement to the outlet, “School board actions do not supersede state laws, which are being applied here using the latest science and best public health practices. The science tells us masks work. They are an easy way for people to keep each other safe. Throughout the pandemic they have helped reduce infection in congregate settings where people have lower vaccination rates, including schools.”

Meanwhile, student walkouts against mask mandates continue in schools across the state.

Inslee is scheduled to announce changes to COVID policy on Thursday. This after King County and Seattle announced Wednesday that they were rolling back vaccine verification for bars, restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses effective March 1.

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