RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s second executive order when sworn in as Virginia’s 74th governor was about parents making decisions onstudents wearing masks in schools.
“Under Virginia law, parents, not the government, have the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children. Recent government orders requiring virtually every child in Virginia wear masks virtually every moment they are in school have proven ineffective and impractical,” the order reads in part.
This all comes as local school districts are reporting the highest numbers of COVID-19 we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic.
Roanoke City Public Schools reports 137 students and 38 staff members reported cases since Monday. Previous highs were 36 students testing positive. Montgomery County Public Schools reported 238 cases across the school district this week.
The Governor’s order also says:
“While parents of some students with conditions that increase the risks of COVID-19 infection might require their children to remained masked during the duration of the school day, other parents may require masks for a more limited duration, if at all.
Masks are not the only method to reduce transmission of COVID-19. Local schools must ensure they are improving inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement and upgrades of equipment to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification, fans, control systems and window and door repair. Other mitigation efforts can be made in consultation with health authorities. The benefit of mitigation efforts must always be weighed against the cost to children’s overall wellbeing.”
The order says the following:
1. The State Health Commissioner shall terminate Order of Public Health Emergency Order Ten (2021).
2. The parents of any child enrolled in an elementary or secondary school or a school-based early childcare and educational program may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.
3. No parent electing that a mask mandate should not apply to his or her child shall be required to provide a reason or make any certification concerning their child’s health or education.
4. A child whose parent has elected that he or she is not subject to a mask mandate should not be required to wear a mask under any policy implemented by a teacher, school, school district, the Department of Education, or any other state authority.
5. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall rescind the Interim Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Virginia PreK-12 Schools, issued January 14, 2021, and updated October 14, 2021, and issue new guidance for COVID-19 Prevention consistent with this Order.
6. School districts should marshal any resources available to improve inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement and upgrades of equipment to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification, fans, control systems and window and door repair.
The executive order goes into effect Monday, January 24.
Some local school boards anticipated this change and have already had discussions. The Bedford County School Board voted to end masks requirements and contact tracing for K-12 students at a board meeting on Thursday night, effective February 1.
Roanoke County made a similar decision earlier this month, removing the student mask mandate if Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin canceled the public health order. Two days later, the school board called a special meeting to reverse course and rescind the earlier vote.
The Pulaski County school system said on Jan. 16 they are in the process of consulting with the New River Health District to determine how the executive order will impact its Covid response plan for contact tracing and quarantine guidelines and expect to release a revised plan later in the week. PCPS will continue to require the use of masks in schools for all in-person learning through Friday, January 21.
You can see all of Governor Youngkin’s 11 Executive Orders here.