ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – During a special meeting on Thursday, the Roanoke County School Board voted to reverse the mask decision it made earlier in the week.
In a 4-1 vote, the board members voted to rescind Tuesday’s vote, which, would have allowed for the school division’s mask mandate to be lifted if a change is made at the state level.
This all began at the end of a more than three-hour work session on Tuesday night when Cheryl Facciani, who represents the Windsor Hills District, made a motion about removing the mask mandate for students if changes are made at the state level when Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin takes office.
That motion passed three to two, with the new school board chairman, David Linden, as well as Facciani and Brent Hudson in support. Tim Greenway and Mike Wray both voted against the motion.
In addition to not mandating masks, the move would have returned the school district to pre-COVID medical policies, meaning no required COVID-19 testing, quarantining or contact tracing protocols.
Since Tuesday’s meeting, the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health District Director Dr. Cynthia Morrow released a statement against the vote:
“I need to stress the importance of maintaining universal indoor masking in our schools. Masking is currently required and should stay in place until our levels of community transmission significantly decrease. Now is not the time to experiment with our teachers’ and our children’s health.”Dr. Cynthia Morrow
During Thursday’s vote, everyone except Facciani voted to rescind Tuesday’s vote.
The special meeting was not open to public comment; however, two citizens made emotional cases to Chairman Linden to keep mask mandates in place, regardless of what the new governor does.
“I’m asking you, person to person here,” said one citizen to Linden. “Are you committed to keeping our schools open by keeping a mask mandate in place?”
Eighteen-year-old Jacob Phillips, who graduated from Northside High last year and has two younger siblings in the district, also addressed Linden after the meeting.
“So when you go and you make this decision in September or whenever you do it—to either repeal the mask mandate, make them optional or not—are you going to invite and include teachers who are immunocompromised and who this disease could kill? Or are you going to make it another sort of, under-the-table 1 p.m. meeting on a school day when the people this actually affects aren’t even able to be here?” Phillips asked Linden.
Phillips told 10 News he believes masks should be worn in schools.
“They protect students. They protect families and they protect educators,” said Phillips.
Phillips said he’s glad the board reversed its decision but said it was not for the right reasons.
“They made a poor decision and today they made a fake apology and had to do what they had to do because their lawyers told them what to do,” said Phillips. “Not their hearts, not their mind, not their moral compass.”
Below is a video from our story on Wednesday night regarding the Tuesday vote: