PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order requiring school districts to masks optional in K-12 schools goes into effect Monday.
Yet Virginia law currently requires school districts to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance in schools, which recommends masks for K-12 schools.
In Hampton Roads and across the commonwealth, many school districts have decided to keep their mask mandates in the meantime as omicron continues to spread. Hampton City Schools have joined with six other school districts in the commonwealth in suing Youngkin over the constitutionality of the executive order.
This post will continue to be updated as more schools make their decisions.
Superintendent Chris Holland announced that due to COVID health concerns, the School Board on Jan. 18 decided not to follow Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order No. 2. They voted to continue mask requirements for students, staff, and visitors in all of Accomack County Public Schools until further notice. This was decided in compliance with Senate Bill #1303.
The Chesapeake School Board voted 7-1 on Thursday night to remove the district’s requirements for masks.
Superintendent Dr. Walter Clemons sent this message out to parents:
The Gloucester County School Board voted to allow parents to elect to not have their children wear a mask while indoors effective tomorrow, which is Monday, January 24. However, please be aware that GCPS still strongly recommends mask wearing for all students (2 years & older) while indoors. Additional masking, isolation and quarantine protocols also approved today by the Gloucester County School Board include but are not limited to the following:
1. Masks are required at all times on all school division buses and vehicles, for all students. As a result, please ensure that you provide a mask daily for your child who rides a bus as mask wearing will be a requirement on the way to and from home as well as any other activities requiring school bus transportation.
2. Students who attend instructional programs at locations other than GCPS facilities are required to follow the masking/mitigation requirements of the other campuses where applicable.
3. Teachers and staff will not be responsible for monitoring masking.
4. Mask wearing is required for all GCPS employees while indoors in all GCPS facilities during work hours, or while performing work related duties.
5. Mask wearing will continue to be required of all visitors and volunteers, as well as spectators (including students) who attend indoor events and extracurricular activities at GCPS facilities. This also includes participants, spectators, visitors and volunteers (adults and children) within Community Use activities, including but not limited to Parks, Recreation & Tourism programs, scouting groups and other community programs and events.
The information that I have shared this evening as well as the updated masking, isolation and quarantine protocols document and updated Virginia Department of Health guidance with approved school board edits can now be found on our division homepage. As always, we thank you for your continued support as we continue to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic together. We ask that you continue to be diligent in notifying the school division when our students, staff or families have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or tested positive for COVID-19.
Finally, I wanted to make you aware that we will be operating on a normal schedule tomorrow and that tomorrow is an early dismissal day for elementary school students, with the dismissal time being 1:30 pm. In closing as always, thanks so much for your time, and please enjoy the rest of your Sunday evening. Stay safe and be blessed. Dr. C., signing off.
Hampton City Schools (HCS) will continue to implement the division’s current HCS COVID-19 Health and Mitigation Strategies, which requires the wearing of masks by all students, staff, and visitors in schools and on buses unless a medical exemption or religious accommodation has been granted.
The Hampton City School Board, at its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, January 19, 2022, ratified the HCS 2021-2022 Instruction & Health Mitigation Plan.
The Virginia law currently requires school systems to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance in schools. Therefore, face masks will remain in effect in HCS as we await further guidance from the Virginia legislature or are directed otherwise by the CDC. The use of face coverings on buses is a federal requirement issued in February 2021.
Specifically, the Senate Bill 1303, which was signed into law last year by the Virginia General Assembly, requires public schools in Virginia to offer in-person instruction and to follow mitigation strategies provided by the CDC to reduce the spread of COVID-19, to the maximum extent practicable. Current CDC guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools includes indoor masking for individuals ages 2-years and older, including students, teachers, staff, and visitors in schools, regardless of vaccination status. The Virginia Department of Health also continues to emphasize the important role face coverings play in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in our community.
The health and safety of our students and staff are always our top priority. The layered mitigation strategies HCS has in place, including the use of face masks, are essential to creating and maintaining a safe and healthy in-person learning environment.
Isle of Wight
During a special called meeting on January 20 the Isle of Wight board decided students will continue to wear masks, following the state law and CDC guidelines.
Newport News Public Schools will continue to follow all of the mitigation strategies recommended by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for schools, including the use of face masks.
The CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all individuals ages 2 years and older, including students, teachers, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. The federal agency notes that when teachers, staff and students consistently and correctly wear a mask, they protect others as well as themselves.
After legal consultation and careful review of state and federal mask requirements and recommendations, the school division leadership team has decided to prioritize the health and wellbeing of students, staff and visitors by adhering to the precedent established at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. Until further guidance is released by the Virginia legislature or the CDC, Newport News Public Schools will require mask use, social distancing, handwashing, cleaning and sanitizing and contact tracing in all schools and offices.
In addition, NNPS will continue to enforce mask use on school buses. Wearing masks on public transportation including school buses is mandated by order of the CDC under the Public Health Service Act.
The Newport News School Board has independent authority to establish school division policies that maintain the health and safety of students and school division employees. Further, the School Board has tasked the Superintendent with the day-to-day operation of schools in compliance with school board policy, Senate Bill 1303 and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Newport News Public Schools will continue to provide a safe educational environment. Students, staff and visitors are encouraged to adhere to all NNPS health and safety protocols.
During its meeting on Wednesday, January 19, the City of Norfolk School Board unanimously approved a motion to continue to adhere to the safety and health protocols outlined in Norfolk Public Schools’ Health Mitigation Plan.
“As we have stated on a number of occasions, it is a top priority for NPS to provide a safe learning and work environment,” said Board Chair Dr. Adale Martin.
The board’s vote requires all who ride NPS school buses and enter its schools and other facilities to remain masked. Martin said the division will continue to adhere to other COVID safety protocols as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia and Norfolk Departments of Public Health.
The NPS administration will continue to work closely with the School Board to make decisions that prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of students and staff.
Superintendent Dr. Sharon I. Byrdsong lauded the work of all NPS staff to include but not limited to building principals, teachers, school nurses, custodians, bus drivers, and school nutrition staff for keeping our scholars safe and healthy so that our schools can remain open.
“There is not one employee who should not be recognized for the tremendous job he/she is doing in keeping Norfolk Public Schools open for in-person instruction,” Dr. Byrdsong said.
Additionally, NPS will continue to work closely with its partners of the Norfolk Department of Public Health to schedule additional vaccination clinics.
“We are keeping our schools open for in-person instruction as long as we are able to do so safely,” Dr. Byrdsong said.
Northampton’s mask mandate will remain in effect for the time being.
The School Board of the City of Portsmouth, Board members received legal counsel regarding their options in response to Gov. Youngkin’s executive order removing mask mandates in schools. The Board also received guidance regarding mitigation procedures from the Portsmouth Health Department.
As a result of this discussion, and in alignment with the recommendations from the health department, the School Board voted to affirm Virginia Senate Bill 1303, which requires school divisions to adhere to the mitigation strategies provided by the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC). Currently, the CDC recommends masking for all students, staff and visitors in schools, regardless of their vaccination status.
As such, there will be no change to the division’s masking procedures. All students, staff and visitors must remain masked while on school property.
The Poquoson School Board voted to eliminate their mask mandate starting Monday, January 24. The new policy will make it optional to wear a mask for all students, staff, and guests visiting any Poquoson Public School. The amendment passed four to one, with two members abstaining.
Southampton County Public Schools will continue to require everyone wear a mask on school grounds and on school buses.
School officials in Suffolk have decided to keep a mask mandate in place for staff and students, despite a recent executive order from the new Virginia governor allowing school divisions to make face coverings optional.
On Monday, January 24, 2022, Suffolk Public Schools will continue to adhere to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations regarding universal indoor masking for grades K-12. All students, staff and visitors must wear a mask while on school property OR while using SPS provided transportation, in accordance with federal law, regardless of vaccination status. SPS will strictly enforce mask-wearing and will provide masks to any student and/or staff member on school property without one or any student entering the bus without one.
Surry County will continue to require masks, but will hold a town hall meeting on Thursday, January at 6 p.m. at Luther Porter Jackson Middle and on Facebook Live. The regular board meeting with start at 7 p.m.
“After careful consideration of a variety of factors, the Surry County Public Schools
administration, headed by me, have decided to prioritize the health and wellbeing of students,
staff and visitors by continuing our health mitigation strategy of universal masking for all,” Superintendent Serbrenia J. Sims wrote in a message to families. “Please know that this was a difficult decision to make, but we feel it is the right one at this time given the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Surry County and in our schools.”
Virginia Beach schools will keep the mask mandate, with an opt-out option for parents.
- Continue to adhere to SB 1303 and have universal masking in schools as part of our layered prevention strategy, while also acknowledging EO#2, which allows parents to opt out of this requirement (this means some students will be in school buildings without masks starting Jan. 24).
- All students who ride a school bus must comply with a federal order requiring the wearing of a face covering while on the bus. Those parents who choose not to comply with this will need to transport their child to/from school.
- All staff must continue to wear a face covering when inside school buildings (DOLI).
- All visitors and spectators (including students) to athletic events and after school programming must wear a face covering. • Student quarantine will return to 10 days and high school students will now be required to quarantine when identified as a close contact.
- Survey families to ascertain interest in VBCPS pursuing an additional virtual option.*
- Work with the state to see how VBCPS can accommodate those families who request this option.
- Continue to monitor legal challenges to EO#2.
*A virtual option will be thoroughly explored but may not be viable without significant support from the state
Williamsburg-James City County
As a result of School Board action on Thursday, January 20, and in accordance with legal counsel, all students and staff will continue to wear masks while in WJCC Schools facilities or on buses.
As we have done throughout the school year, we will work with families to ensure students are meeting all expected responsibilities at school. Please set out your child’s masks now so they are prepared to meet this expectation when they return to school tomorrow.
If a student does not come prepared with a mask to wear at school, school staff will have masks ready for students to wear as has been provided throughout the pandemic.
If a student chooses not to meet the requirement of wearing a mask, we are committed to providing an alternate method of continued instruction for that student.
We are dedicated to stepping down our mitigation strategies – including masking – when our Health Advisory Team indicates it is operationally safe to do so. We look forward to engaging in this conversation at our next School Board meeting on Tuesday, February 1.
York County Schools
The York County School Board and division staff have reviewed Executive Order 2and the implications for our schools. As we continue to await additional guidance from the Virginia Department of Education, per the governor’s order, we have consulted with the Deputy County Attorney and other legal resources.
Virginia law (SB1303) requires school divisions to adhere, to the maximum extent practicable, to current mitigation strategies provided by the CDC. The CDC currently maintains its recommendation for universal masking for students (ages 2 years and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Additionally, federal law requires the use of masks while on school buses.
As we seek additional guidance regarding the conflicts between Executive Order 2 and SB1303, the York County School Division will continue to implement the layered mitigation strategies that have been in place in our schools throughout this school year – including requiring all students, staff and visitors to wear masks inside school buildings and on school buses – until further notice.
The division’s top priority is to provide safe, secure learning environments for all students. This measured approach can help reduce quarantine and isolation periods for students and minimize disruptions to in-person learning. We will continue to consult with local and state officials, as well as legal counsel, and will implement and adjust our layered mitigation strategies accordingly.