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Optional masks for Portsmouth Public Schools students goes into effect on March 1

Posted at 9:27 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 23:26:16-05

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The Portsmouth School Board has come to a decision on masks. 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.

"We would prefer to have the mask mandate in place, but since the law was passed and signed into law, we will follow the law, of course," Dr. Cardell Patillo, the Portsmouth School Board chair, tells News 3 reporter Leondra Head.

This comes after Gov. Youngkin signed Senate Bill 739 into law.

"The school board, regrettably and against its better judgment solely to fulfill the new legal requirements effected on March 1, 2022, masks will be optional at Portsmouth Public Schools," Adam Carroll, the attorney for the Portsmouth School Board, said.

Masks will still be required on school buses. Staff members and visitors will still be required to masks in school buildings.

PPS sent out the following statement on the mask policy change Thursday night:

As shared previously, PPS implemented universal masking consistent with CDC guidance and advice from the Portsmouth Health Department. On Feb. 16, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed Senate Bill 739 into law. It allows parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates, starting March 1, 2022.

The School Board recognizes that teachers and staff are already under immense stress and adding requirements to track those who choose to opt out of the schools' mask mandate is an undue burden. Therefore, regrettably, and solely to fulfill this new legal requirement, effective March 1, 2022, masks will be optional for students while on school property.

Please note the following important details around this change:

  • Students will still be required to wear masks on school buses (this is in accordance with federal guidelines);
  • Staff members will still be required to wear masks while in school buildings and offices (this is in accordance with state labor law);
  • Visitors and guests will also still be required to wear masks when in school buildings and offices.

As a reminder, PPS will continue all of its ongoing mitigation procedures, including the nightly deep cleaning of buildings; access to touchless water stations in schools; and increased air-filtration system inspections.

Families are also encouraged to continue to follow the state department of health’s guidance on when to send a child to school. Additionally, while it will be optional, the division continues to encourage masking for students.

Any changes to the above procedures will be shared with you directly. As always, thank you for your continued partnership and support of Portsmouth Public Schools.
Portsmouth Public Schools

At the beginning of the meeting, the school board offered a moment of silence to the school employee who was shot Thursday morning.

“I would like to pause this for a moment to give our thoughts and best wishes and prayers to our staff member who was injured today locally in a shooting,” Dr. Patillo said to the school board.

Dr. Patillo offered his thoughts and prayers.

"We are family in Portsmouth. Whenever our family is hurt, we’re all hurt. Of course, we have issues in our community that need to be dealt with when it comes to crime," Dr. Patillo said.

The school employee is in the hospital fighting for her life.

Click here for more Safely at School coverage.