ROANOKE, Va. – On the Saturday of his inauguration, Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order about parents making decisions on students 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.
There are also questions about how a Virginia law passed last year plays into this order. Senate Bill 1303, requires school districts to follow CDC guidance to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, meaning this new CDC guidance is now law. CDC guidance recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
The executive order goes into effect Monday, January 24.
As a note, schools are still under a federal mandate to have students and staff mask up while on school buses. Staff must also wear a mask in schools as well.
Some local school boards anticipated this change and have already had discussions. We’re tracking what our local school districts are doing and will be updating this list:
The school division announced on Thursday, Feb. 10, that starting on Monday, Feb. 14, schools would be mask-optional for students. Part of the reason for the decision is that SB739 passed the Senate of Virginia and is eventually expected to make it to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk and be signed. If that happens, masks would become optional for students across Virginia.
During the Jan. 27 meeting, the Amherst County School Board voted to keep universal masking for students and staff while inside schools until Feb. 22. The board says after that date, masks will be optional as long as health data metrics don’t exceed a certain level. Officials will determine what those metrics are during the Feb. 10 school board meeting.
“After careful consideration of a variety of factors, the Appomattox County Public Schools’ administration and school board have decided to adhere to the Governor’s executive order. This means mandated universal masking for all students will not be enforced in our school buildings beginning January 24, 2022 and the decision to mask will be made by the parents of our students. Please know that this was a difficult decision to make, but it is consistent with our divisions’ compliance with all previous executive orders,” reads a notice sent to parents Jan. 21.
On Saturday, Jan. 22, the school board voted unanimously to make masks optional for its students, staff and visitors; however, individuals will still be required to wear masks on school buses in accordance with federal mask requirements.
The Bedford County School Board met Jan. 20 and voted 4-3 to have optional masking begin Jan. 24, when the executive order takes effect. Previously, the Bedford County School Board voted to end mask requirements and contact tracing for K-12 students, effective February 1.
Starting Monday, Jan. 24, masks will be optional for students on school grounds in accordance with Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Executive Order Number Two; however, all BCPS employees will still be required to wear masks.
On Feb. 8, the school division announced that starting Feb. 9, masks would no longer be required for students given a clarification fo SB1303 by the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Previously, on Jan. 21, Botetourt County Public Schools issued a press release announcing that it will continue its mask mandate for students. During a special meeting Jan. 24, the school board voted to continue the use of masks in schools and to abide by the executive order if the Virginia Supreme Court upholds it. Until then, BCPS is continuing its mitigation policy to prevent the spread of COVID 19. They also voted 4-1 to set a date of March 7 to make masking optional for students. This amount of time allows for children to be vaccinated and the supreme court to rule.
Beginning Monday, Feb. 28, masking on school buses will be optional for students.
Campbell County Public Schools will comply with the executive order, allowing for families to choose whether their children wear a mask at school.
Carroll County Public Schools
On Jan. 21, Carroll County Public Schools announced that masks will be optional for students yet strongly encouraged, aligning with the executive order issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin last weekend. However, students and drivers will still be required to wear on school buses, per CDC guidance. All staff will still be required to wear masks under the current OSHA and Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) requirements. At this time, mitigation strategies such as social distancing, hand washing, extensive cleaning and upgrades to ventilation systems are still in effect.
In a facebook post Jan. 21, Charlotte County Public Schools said it “will follow the executive order and allow parents to decide whether they will opt their students out of CCPS masking requirements beginning Monday. Parents should send a note with their children to school on Monday opting them out of our masking policy if they so choose. Also, an opt-out form will be sent home with students on Monday. If you choose for your students not to opt out, you need not take any action.”
Masking is still recommended as part of the school division’s mitigation strategies, however, beginning January 24 Covington City Public Schools will no longer require that students, staff, and visitors wear masks while on school property. Masking will be optional.
In a Facebook post, the school system announced that starting Monday, Feb. 28, students will not be required to wear masks on school buses or other forms of student transportation.
During a closed session on Jan. 27, the Danville School Board unanimously voted to continue requiring students to wear masks in schools.
“As in the past, Floyd County Public Schools will continue to follow legal requirements including Executive Order Two,” said Superintendent John Wheeler, in an email to 10 News. Beginning Monday, January 24, parents could choose whether to have their child wear a mask in the school building.
“We continue to seek guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education to maintain the healthiest and safest learning environment possible. We understand that optional masking for students may cause some anxiety and we will continue with our mitigation strategies to the maximum extent practicable while following Executive Order Two,” said Wheeler.
The Franklin County School Board voted 5-3 to make masking optional in schools, saying “Regarding masking as it pertains to COVID-19 mitigation strategies, that we return the choice for masking of the individual students to the parent.” The motion is effective starting Feb. 15.
Beginning Monday, January 24, parents will have the option to decide if their children wear a mask in school. It will not be necessary for families to inform the school of your decision with any forms, letters, or other types of notification.
On Friday, Jan. 21, Giles County Public Schools announced in a Facebook post that masks will be optional for students starting Monday, Jan. 24. Students will still be required to wear masks on school buses, per federal guidelines. In addition, employees will need to continue to wear masks in the school building.
“The decision to wear a mask or not is between the parent and the child. Teachers, administrators, and other staff are not expected to enforce this. The executive order details that parents do not have to provide any reason, forms, or exemptions to the school,” said a notice online.
The School Board voted Jan. 24 to require the wearing of face masks on buses and in schools through February 2.
Parents may contact the school to opt their students out of mask wearing, according to a notice sent to parents Jan. 21.
“Beginning on January 24, masks will be recommended for the safety of all students, staff, and for the safety of the school. This is due to the high number of COVID cases in the county. However, based on the Governor’s order we will not be enforcing mask mandates inside the school,” said a message to families.
Lexington City Schools will continue with its universal masking policy for students and staff in our schools until further notice, according to a Facebook post from the district.
In a special school board meeting on Jan. 21, the Lynchburg City School Board voted to continue the mask mandate that is further discussed in the LCS Health Mitigation.
Under the advice of the school division’s attorney, the division’s mandatory masking policy remains in place until the division has received a ruling from the pending court cases.
Students will have to continue wearing masks. The school board met Thursday, Jan. 20 and voted 4-2 to reaffirm the mask mandate in support of SB1303.
There’s a school board meeting Jan. 27.
“Beginning on Monday, January 24, 2022, Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order 2 relating to masks in schools takes effect. Starting Monday, parents will be able to decide whether their children will wear masks in school, however, masks will continue to be required when students are on school buses. The requirement that employees wear masks remains in effect. " -Dr. Mark R. Jones, Division Superintendent Email on January 21
Masking will be optional for students on school grounds; however, masks will still be required on the bus. Additionally, if a student had to go into a 5-day isolation period after a positive test, they are required to wear a mask during days 6-10 following their return.
In a letter from the superintendent, the school division recommends all students continue to wear masks. “Students who have tested positive for COVID or have been directly exposed to COVID and who isolate or quarantine just five days, will be required to wear a mask on days 6-10 of their return to school or remain at home for the entire 10-day isolation/quarantine period,” said the letter.
The school division announced on Jan. 18 that at this time, the division will continue to require students, staff, and visitors to wear face coverings in schools and on buses, as medically and developmentally appropriate as we await further guidance from the Virginia legislature or are directed otherwise by the CDC.
On Feb. 27, school officials took to Facebook to announce that starting Feb. 28 students and staff will no longer be required to wear masks inside school buildings or on school buses. While students and staff can continue to wear a mask if they choose to do so, they will no longer be required to.
Rockbridge County Public Schools announced in a Facebook post on Sunday, Feb. 27, that starting Monday, Feb. 28, students will no longer be required to wear masks on school grounds or on school buses.
Salem City Schools
Masks are now optional for Salem City Schools students in school buildings and buses as of Feb. 28.
“After weighing available information, on Friday, January 21st the Wythe County School Board voted to follow the mandate set forth in EO 2 which would allow parents the option of having their child not wear a mask while in the school building. We anticipate additional guidance to be provided by the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Virginia Department of Health,” the school system said in a message to families on Jan. 23.