Henry County Public Schools lift mask mandate, parents able to opt-out of children wearing masks

Only about 10% of students chose to not wear a mask in school, officials say

Gov. Youngkin's executive order lifting mask mandates has caused confusion across the state.

HENRY COUNTY, Va. – Governor Glenn Younkin’s executive order to lift the mask mandate in schools went into effect on Monday, leaving the decision on whether students wear a mask up to the parents.

“It was very smooth and to be transparent we were a little surprised. We figured it might be a little difficult as we navigate this new change,” said Henry County Schools Director of Communications Monica Hatchett. “A parent now doesn’t have to provide that medical or religious exemption, they now just need to provide a phone call or a note to the teacher.”

Henry County was one of the school districts to allow parents to opt-out of their children wearing masks. So far though, the majority hasn’t.

“We asked several schools yesterday and fewer than 10% in the buildings that I spoke with were opting out,” added Hatchett.

While masks are no longer required for students, some still chose to wear them.

“With all of our other mitigation strategies in place but also most importantly, if you’re masked and are exposed to someone who is positive, you don’t have to quarantine, that’s a big motivator to wear the mask at school.”

Roanoke County is one of many districts enforcing the mask mandate. Consequences are comparable to any school rule that is broken. The district said it varies case by case.

While the executive order states masks are optional in schools, there’s still a state law in effect saying that they’re required. This puts school districts at odds with how to for forward legally.

“We felt after we spoke with our attorney that we could not make masks optional yet because we’d be going against SB1303,” explained Botetourt County School Board Chair Anna Weddle.

The districts keeping their mask mandates in place are waiting to see if the Virginia Supreme Court upholds the executive order as constitutional.


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