CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Chesapeake Public Schools is sticking with its original plan when it comes to masks in schools.

The Chesapeake School Board on Monday night stood by its optional mask policy for the 2021-2022 school year.

Masks will not be required but are strongly recommended.

School officials previously voted to give students and staff at Chesapeake Public Schools the option of not wearing masks on school grounds. Parents must fill out an exemption form if they want their students to be maskless.

The form states, in part, “By signing this form, you are giving your child permission to participate in their indoor instructional time without the use of a mask. You also acknowledge that you are aware that masks are required on public transportation, which includes school buses. Your signature below does not exempt your child from wearing a mask while riding the school bus as this is a federal requirement.”

The affirmation for the optional mask policy on Monday came the week after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said schools will need to adhere to CDC guidance on masks, which means the face coverings must be worn. He said a bipartisan bill passed by the General Assembly makes it the law. However, some lawmakers have debated the intent of that bill.

In response to Northam’s announcement last week, the senator and physician who sponsored the bill said a mask mandate for kids isn’t practical.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools is also slated to decide on its mask policy Tuesday.

One Virginia Beach School Board member told 10 On Your Side she planned to introduce a resolution that would make wearing a mask optional.

During Monday night’s meeting, the Chesapeake School Board also addressed its policies regarding transgender individuals in the division.

Chesapeake students, parents and teachers rallied outside the meeting calling for non-discrimination and equality for all students.

As of 6:30 p.m., 54 people had signed up to speak at the board meeting. Some addressed the district’s optional mask policy, while others spoke up for transgender rights and equality in schools.

By the end of the night, the school board also revised its current non-discrimination policy to include protection for transgender students. A CPS spokesperson said a vote on these changes will happen at a later date.

Those amendments include:

  • Providing a safe environment for overnight field trips and giving reasonable accommodations for room assignments
  • Allowing students to request preferred names and pronouns
  • Professional training for mental health counselors
  • Protections against bullying
  • Private bathroom and locker room facilities for any student to use
  • Adding the terms “inclusivity” and “equality for all” to current policy

A Chesapeake Public Schools spokesperson told 10 On Your Side the district will announce its full school plan on August 23.