NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Norfolk School Board has decided to continue requiring masks for students and staff in city schools, despite an executive order from new Gov. Glenn Youngkin that would give parents the choice to abide by mask mandates or not.

The school board voted unanimously Wednesday night to direct the superintendent to continue requiring universal masking in schools.

It is the first district in Hampton Roads to officially buck Youngkin’s order on the issue, which ends the statewide COVID-19 mask mandate in K-12 schools beginning Jan. 24 and makes face coverings optional.

“As we have stated on a number of occasions, it is a top priority for Norfolk Public Schools to provide for a safe learning and work environment. We will continue to follow mask-wearing along with other COVID safety protocols as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Norfolk and Virginia Department of Health,” Dr. Adale Martin, chair of the school board, said in a statement.

The board had no discussion publicly, but several sources not authorized to speak publicly said the issue was discussed in a closed session with legal counsel.

Following the vote, Superintendent Dr. Sharon Byrdsong praised teachers, students and staff for abiding by the rules to limit the spread of COVID-19. Norfolk has not had to move any schools to virtual learning because of high case numbers, unlike some neighboring districts.

“Our mitigation strategies, they are being followed, and we are pleased that we can continue offering in-person instruction at this time,” Byrdsong said.

While school board meetings in the more conservative-leaning cities of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake have been heated over the issue of masking, Norfolk has not seen a similar passion. No speakers addressed Youngkin’s order Wednesday night.

Youngkin’s order says there “is no greater priority than the health and welfare of Virginia’s children” and that “parents, not the government, have the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children.”

Specifically, the order states “parents of any child enrolled in an elementary or secondary school or a school-based early childcare and educational program may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.” It also says parents won’t be required to provide a reason for their choice.

Martin said that is not going to be the case in Norfolk.

“If a student comes in without a mask they will be given a mask,” Martin said. “It is the parent’s choice to apply for either a religious or medical exemption. It does require a written exemption letter from the parent.”

Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said last week that any school board that ends its mask mandate would be in violation of a state law passed last year. That means those divisions could be susceptible to lawsuits.

Isle of Wight and Northampton schools have both said their mandates will stay in place for now.