VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – After doing virtual school for Kindergarten last year, Jack Jensen is getting ready to go into first grade in Virginia Beach.
“Very, very, very, very excited,” Jensen said.
“He’s going into the building for the first time as a student,” Jack’s mom, Kaitlin, said.
Kaitlin Jensen feels relieved and cautiously optimistic ahead of the first bell, with masks being required inside Virginia Beach public schools and on buses.
“Ultimately, I think it’s schools’ jobs to protect our children, and I think that’s the best way to protect them.”
The Virginia Beach School Board has decided that masks will be required inside its schools and on buses this fall.
The 7-4 vote came early Wednesday morning after a lengthy board meeting discussing the plan for the school year.
News 3 talked with parents on Wednesday and got a mix of reactions.
“We felt that the CDC guidelines are just guidelines and don’t need to become mandatory or made a law,” said parent Sarita Rayna, who is considering homeschooling after this decision. “This was absolutely heartbreaking for me. I spoke with the school this morning and just let them know if they were going to mandate masks the whole day, we would be pulling out our two kids, a second grader and a kindergartner.”
Meanwhile, some parents are not only OK with it, they’re in favor of masks.
“I think in school, kids should be wearing masks because it’s hard to social distance and keep them away from each other, and if anything it helps kinda keep the rest of the germs down so the kids can continue the school year,” said parent Alana Plank. “I think it also helps the teacher, too, because if the teacher gets sick because the kids aren’t wearing masks, then you’re going to have a substitute shortage, too.”
The mask requirement is regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings will not be required outdoors.
“I think that people that showed up last night really are concerned for their children,” Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) Chief of Staff Dr. Donald Robertson said. “We’re very comfortable with our recommendation.
Wednesday, News 3 asked VBCPS officials about how the recommendation will be enforced.
“Honestly, we didn’t have any issues with it last year,” Robertson said. “Anytime you have a child who’s failing to follow any stated school rule, there are levels of discipline, beginning with it could be a conversation. It could be a detention after school; it could be a phone call home.”
Robertson and VBCPS Chief Operations Officer Jack Freeman also told News 3 masks will be available at entrances of buildings and buses to give to kids who don’t have one that day.
“I’m very confident that our students will adapt and comply with the expectations to be back in school,” Robertson said.
“We’re excited to be able to move forward with a plan to be able to safely get our kids back in school, and get back to the business of educating our kids,” Freeman added.
Robertson said they made their principals aware and will be releasing more info to staff and the community.
“We’re asking all parents - and in particular those who are disappointed with our decision - to give us a chance,” he said.
VBCPS officials said the mask wearing recommendation will go into effect Monday.