CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — One day after Governor Ralph Northam’s mask mandate in K-12 schools expired, the decision on face coverings continues to spark tension throughout Hampton Roads.
Students and staff at Chesapeake Public Schools have the option of not wearing masks on school grounds, after the city’s school board voted in June to lift the mask mandate if the statewide mandate expired, but that didn’t stop 49 people from taking the podium on both sides of the mask debate during Monday night’s meeting.
A spokesperson for Chesapeake Public Schools told 10 On Your Side the district is still working on a plan for the upcoming school year and has no intention of changing its optional mask policy unless state health officials say otherwise.
Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 79, which required those five and older to wear masks on school grounds in Virginia, expired on July 25. New guidance from the Virginia Department of Education allows local school districts to implement mask policies based on public health recommendations and community conditions.
The school board’s decision was made after numerous family members and some students spoke publicly during last month’s board meeting. Some spoke in favor of removing masks, while others urged the school division to keep masks or communicate its plan for maintaining safety next year. Some also discussed whether vaccines should be mandated or not.
Chesapeake is currently holding summer school classes and parents must fill out an exemption form if they want their students to be maskless.
The form stated that mask-wearing has been “one of the most effective public health strategies” when it came to stopping the spread of COVID-19, and it’s still recommended for people to wear masks in public.
Parents as well as a physician must sign the form.
It is important to know that students and staff are not exempt from wearing a mask on school buses. Federal mandate requires face masks on public transportation.