WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — Williamsburg-James City County Schools will still require masks for all students, staff and visitors despite Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order to make masks optional at K-12 schools taking effect on Monday, January 24.

The district’s school board opted at Thursday’s meeting to continue wearing masks based on Virginia state law (Senate Bill 1303, which requires schools to follow current CDC guidance) and their attorney’s advice. The CDC’s current recommendation is universal masking as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads.

“Masks are a key layer of our mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep our schools open for in-person learning, five days per week,” Superintendent Dr. Olwen Herron said.

“We are committed to stepping down our mitigation strategies – including masking – when our Health Advisory Team indicates it is operationally safe to do so,” Herron said. “Now is not that time. The elimination of masks during our current community surge, when transmission rates are at the highest point during the pandemic, may eliminate our ability to keep schools open. We need all our staff (teachers, bus drivers, administrators, cafeteria workers, operational staff, etc.) in place to provide a safe environment for our students and support in-person learning.”

Many local school districts such as Norfolk, Portsmouth, Accomack, Northampton and Isle of Wight decided to continue to masking requirements. Others such as Chesapeake and Poquoson will make masks optional on January 24, even as 13 parents have filed a lawsuit against Chesapeake school leaders and Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Virginia Beach City Public Schools is giving families the option to “opt out” of the requirement.