Botetourt County schools to allow students to not wear masks starting Wednesday

This is a change from their original decision

Mask or no masks? That's what schools are looking at across Virginia.

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – Masks will soon become optional for students in Botetourt County schools.

The school division announced on Tuesday that starting Wednesday the Botetourt County School Board will implement Executive Order No. 2, allowing parents to determine whether their child wears a mask while at school.

[Supreme Court of Virginia dismisses lawsuit challenging Gov. Youngkin’s mask order]

The board cited part of the Supreme Court of Virginia’s decision Monday to dismiss a lawsuit against the order as the reason for this change.

While the court did not make any decisions regarding the order, it did provide the following clarification of SB1303:

“By allowing school boards to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended COVID-19 mitigation strategies “to the maximum extent practicable,” SB1303 necessarily gives the boards a degree of discretion to modify or even forgo those strategies as they deem appropriate for their individual circumstances. With respect to implementing policies on student masking, that discretion persists even if EO 2’s masking exemption provisions are unlawful.”

Supreme Court of Virginia

The board also cited the declining number of cases as a reason for lifting the mask requirement.

[LIST: Which schools are requiring masks and which are not across Southwest, Central Virginia]

Faculty and staff will still be required to wear masks and due to the federal mandate, everyone on a school bus will be required to wear a mask as well.

The school’s decision comes a few days after an Arlington Circuit Court judge granted seven school districts a temporary restraining order against Executive Order No. 2.


ORIGINAL STORY

A line was formed Monday morning ahead of the Botetourt County School Board meeting. On the agenda is a question school districts are grappling with across the state: mask or no mask.

“It’s been two years and we’re still doing the same stuff. it’s frustrating,” said Ben Hopkins, whose child is a student in the district.

Governor Glenn Youngkin passed an executive order that bans mask mandates in schools, allowing parents to make the decision for their children.

“The executive order is put out, it’s very clear, it’s written and the schools are defying that,” Hopkins said.

Currently, state law requires public schools to adhere to CDC guidelines, including wearing masks in schools.

[READ MORE: Is Gov. Youngkin’s executive order to get rid of mask mandates in schools legal?]

The Virginia Supreme Court will decide whether the governor’s executive order is upheld. In the meantime, the schools are making the call whether to stick with it or not.

“We’ve read through it and the executive order does clearly state that it doesn’t matter if there’s a mandate at the school, that the governmental orders and the EO2 overrides that,” added Emily Hopkins.

Botetourt County Public Schools voted 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.

“Students will be masked, until March 7th, that’s our goal. To hopefully have kids out. Hopefully, our transmission rates will be lower,” explained Botetourt County School Board Chair Anna Weddle.

The March 7 milestone is to give parents enough time to get their kids vaccinated if they aren’t already.

The decision from the Supreme Court could happen any day now.


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