Norfolk School Board ends vaccine mandate for employees, votes to make masks optional starting March 1

Posted at 11:47 AM, Feb 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-25 22:15:09-05

NORFOLK, Va. - The Norfolk School Board became the latest school division Friday morning to vote to make masks optional for students effective March 1.

The vote puts the school division in line with a state law passed by the General Assembly earlier this month and signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

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.

Students who are actively symptomatic for COVID-19 while in school and students who wish to return to school early from quarantine must also mask up.

Not all on the school board were pleased.

"This is about politics, not public health," said school board member Tanya Bhasin. "Out of principle, I am not going to be voting in support of making masks optional."

Others said they had to follow the law.

"It's something we have to do by the law. The law has been signed in by the governor, but i do not agree with using our children as political pawns," said school board member Carlon Clanton.

The school board also voted to rescind the COVID-19 employee vaccine mandate. About 90% of employees are fully vaccinated.

The vaccine and testing mandate affected bus driver shortages this week. School Board Chair Dr. Adale Martin said 11 drivers were impacted by this mandate. However, she added, that is only part of the story.

“Employee shortages are global. That is impacting our schools,” Martin said. “We are in this together, from the school board to the classroom.”

Norfolk Public Schools is hiring for multiple positions. If you'd like to apply, click here.

The actions come as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it is easing its indoor mask guidance for the public and in schools.

Click here for more Safely at School coverage.