HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - As masking in schools continues to be a hot debate, school board members in a number of local school districts have decided to make masking up optional for students and staff, except where federally required.
In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed a controversial bill into law, making masks optional for students in Virginia schools by March 1.
The bill passed both the state Senate and House of Delegates after Gov. Youngkin sent the bill back to lawmakers with the recommendation school boards follow the law by that date.
Below is a list of Virginia and North Carolina school districts that have decided to reverse course and drop their mask mandates:
The Norfolk School Board voted to make masks optional for students effective March 1.
Employees and school visitors will still be required to wear masks inside school buildings. In addition, masks will be required on school buses due to a federal directive.
Norfolk Public Schools officials say parents are not required to submit documentation or provide an explanation as to why they are giving their children the option to not wear a mask.
On February 28, the York County School Division lifted all mask requirements.
Effective immediately, masks will be optional for anyone while inside a YCSD building, bus or vehicle. The division will continue to adhere to mask guidance for individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 or have tested positive for the virus. Additionally, we continue to encourage students and staff to stay home when sick.
Following Gov. Glenn Youngkin's new law to give parents the option to choose whether or not to put a mask on their child, optional masks for Portsmouth Public Schools students will go into effect on March 1. In addition, in accordance with new guidance from the CDC, masks will now also be optional for students while on the school bus.
Newport News Public Schools announced that masks will be optional starting Thursday, February 24.
This decision comes a week after Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed Senate Bill 739 into law making the wearing of face masks by students optional in school buildings effective no later than March 1.
Documentation and/or parental notification will be not required for students to be masked or unmasked.
On March 1, NNPS decided that starting Wednesday, March 2, wearing masks will be optional for all non-health service employees who are fully vaccinated and up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines. masks will also be optional for classroom volunteers, in-school tutors and substitutes who are fully vaccinated and up-to-date on their vaccines.
All Health Services employees of NNPS must continue to wear a mask due to possible exposure to COVID-19 during their job responsibilities. Additionally, all employees working in the school district's COVID isolation room must continue to wear masks.
People who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive or who have been exposed to someone with COVID should wear a mask and follow isolation and quarantine guidelines.
NNPS employees who are not fully vaccinated or up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines must continue to wear a mask.
NNPS officials are still encouraging masks to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
On February 28, the Chesapeake School Board announced masks will be optional for employees and visitors on all CPS property beginning March 1. Board members say the Chesapeake Public Schools district continues to support staff members who wish to wear a mask, but masks for employees are no longer required.
Additionally, the board voted to follow the CDC's recommendation to no longer require face coverings for people riding buses or vans operated by public or private schools. Students and employees will now have the option to wear a mask on the school bus, but it will no longer be required as of March 1.
On March 24, the Suffolk School Board voted to allow mask-wearing to be optional for staff members, parents, visitors and volunteers, as well as for students riding Suffolk Public Schools transportation. This also includes students participating in athletics and extracurricular activities.
The mask requirement was lifted on March 28.
While school officials are giving the option to wear masks, the district may consider reasonable accommodations for anyone with underlying health conditions and those who do not feel comfortable removing their face covering.
SPS will continue to keep plastic dividers on desks and the option for staff to wear plastic face shields.
The Perquimans County Board of Education met in a special meetingTuesday night to review the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' (NCDHHS) new procedures regarding contact tracing and quarantines. NCDHHS no longer recommends individual contact tracing or asymptomatic people to be excluded from school after an identified exposure.
This change applies regardless of the exposure source, individual vaccination status or school mask requirement status, and the new guidelines are effective beginning Monday, February 21.
Due to these changes, the board voted unanimously to make masks recommended but not required for all students and staff beginning Monday. Masks will still be required on school buses and activity buses due to federal law.
Click here to read more on the new guidance for school operations.
Members of the Currituck County Board of Education voted on February 9 to make masks optional in Currituck County Schools facilities starting Monday, February 14. The vote was unanimous.
If a cluster of COVID-19 cases is identified at a specific school, the mask mandate will be reinstated at that school building for 10 days.
Due to the federal mandate, masks will still be required on school buses.
Starting February 15, the Gates County Board of Education voted unanimously last week to make masks optional for staff and students in grades K-12.
The new policy goes into effect immediately with the following stipulations:
- School metrics for COVID cases/quarantines must remain at 5% or under for students and staff.
- If more than 5% of students and staff at a school are quarantined, the school will return to mandatory masks for seven (7) consecutive school days.
- By federal executive order, masks will continue to be mandatory for all students and staff on school buses.
Members of the Dare County Board of Education voted February 8 to rescind the mask requirement in Dare County Schools, except where masking is federally required.
The motion to amend the policy passed with a vote of 6-1.
According to the new policy, masks will only be required on school buses or other school transportation vehicles subject to requirements from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On February 21, the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools Board of Education unanimously voted to make masks optional in district facilities starting March 1.
This list will continue to be updated if more local school districts decide to make masks optional.