Parents can opt their children out of wearing masks in Chesapeake schools

Posted at 10:49 AM, Jul 26, 2021

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Beginning Monday, parents sending their kids to in-person summer school can opt their children out from wearing masks.

In June, school board members voted to make masks optional for students and staff inside buildings as long as a state order didn't conflict with the vote. Over the weekend, a state order mandating masks at school expired.

Last week, Gov. Northam announced the state would leave mask policies up to local school divisions.

Parents can fill out a mask opt-out form for their kids for the remainder of summer school, which ends on August 3. The school division continues to recommend masks be worn.

"We encourage parents, guardians and school staff to continue to work with students to support mask wearing in school at this time," the opt-out form says.

A spokesman for the school division said the mask policy will follow the school board's guidance for the upcoming year, but the exact procedures are still being determined. It's not clear whether the opt-out form will also be used in the fall.

Parents on both sides of the issue are planning to speak at the school board meeting on Monday evening. Masks are not on the agenda, but people can speak on non-agenda items.

"Now is not the time to be reducing mitigation measures. Granted summer school is a lower number of children, but I hope so very much that they come to their senses and require masks, especially when it comes to mitigation measures for the fall," said Samantha Lester, a Chesapeake Public Schools parent and member of Chesapeake Advocates for Responsible Return to School.

"I think [the school board's decision] is fantastic. This should have been a decision for parents to make from the beginning. A lot of parents feel that decisions to mask and vaccinate are their decisions to make," said Kim Scott, another parent who's a member of Chesapeake Parents for Freedom.

Lester plans on asking masks to be reinstated during the meeting.

"We will be asking for masks to be required for everyone regardless of vaccination status because of the Delta variant and because children under the age of 12 still do not have access to a vaccine. That is half the student population in Chesapeake Public Schools," said Lester.

Scott and members of her group will be holding a rally ahead of the meeting, calling for no mask or vaccine mandates.

Related: With Delta variant on the rise, some local parents not hesitant about kids returning to school

"We've all spoken about our children's negative experiences being forced to wear [masks] seven hours a day, so I think they should be optional for parents to choose," said Scott.

Click here for more Safely at School coverage.