Virginia Beach schools decline to make masks optional

Coronavirus

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach City Public Schools convened for a special school board meeting on Monday night to vote on changes to the district’s COVID-19 protocols. 

The school board voted on a resolution during the one-hour meeting that could make masks optional in all schools. It ultimately failed. Three board members voted in favor, while eight opposed the measure.

Beach schools have been slowly lifting COVID rules. Two weeks ago, the board voted to get rid of quarantine policies for high schoolers. School health leaders report more than 60% of older students in Beach schools are vaccinated.

The board will re-evaluate the mask decision on Jan. 11 when district leaders plan to give a presentation on the latest COVID-19 data in schools, including how the suspended quarantine policy at the high school level has impacted case counts. There will also be another data presentation on Jan. 24 when district leaders plan to make a decision on whether to keep quarantine suspended in Beach high schools or to re-instate it.

Currently, Gov. Ralph Northam’s order requires all students to wear a mask while in school. Yet, Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin plans to suspend that order when he takes office in January.

Last week, Chesapeake schools voted to approve optional masks, vaccines and testing for students starting in 2022.

The school board also discussed a clarification regarding student-athletes and COVID protocols. There was uncertainty surrounding futsal, a formal conditioning program that takes place in the winter to prepare athletes for spring soccer. Although futsal is not a Virginia High School League program, since it falls under winter sport guidelines, those who are participating must be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing. Those in club sports do not need to abide by the mandatory vaccine or testing policy.

Some board members were frustrated over the need to call a special meeting regarding the clarification.

“It is sad that we have administrators who handle this stuff every single day. They do and it is their job to handle it,” said Vice Chair Kim Melnyk.

Board member Carolyn Weems agreed.

“It is sad. I’m sick. I’m having to Zoom in on a Monday when this could’ve been taken care of on a Tuesday night meeting we already had scheduled,” Weems stated.

The meeting started at 6 p.m.

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