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School boards across Hampton Roads decide whether to keep mask mandates in place

Virus Outbreak Schools
Posted at 9:45 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 17:21:41-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - After Gov. Glenn Youngkin voted to rescind mask mandates in schools across Virginia, school board members for school districts across Hampton Roads have voted whether to keep their existing mandates in place.

Executive Order Two was one of 11 Youngkin signed right after taking office on January 15. It doesn't take effect until January 24, so the previous order requiring masks in schools remains in effect for this week.

Youngkin said the order is about giving parents choices.

"Permitting parents to make decisions on where and when to wear masks permits the Commonwealth’s parents to make the best decision for the circumstances confronting each child," he wrote in the order.

Related: Local schools respond to Gov. Youngkin's executive order on masks in school

You can see each local school board's decision below:

Newport News:

Newport News Public Schools will continue to follow all VDH and CDC mitigation strategies for schools, including the use of masks.

Until further guidance is released by the Virginia legislature or the CDC, NNPS will require mask use, social distancing, handwashing, cleaning and sanitizing and contact tracing in all schools and offices.

They will continue to enforce mask use on school buses too.

Gloucester

The mask mandate was rescinded during a meeting on January 20 and was approved by a 6-1 vote. Now as of January 24, the school board has updated its mask policy, leaving them optional for students. Masks are now only required for all staff and visitors.

You can review the updated guidance document here.

Hampton

Face masks will still be required for all students, staff and visitors while in all Hampton City Schools buildings and administrative offices. The school board voted Wednesday to keep this policy in place.

A spokesperson for HCS provided News 3 with the following statement on the vote:

"On Saturday, January 15, 2022, Governor Youngkin issued Executive Order Number Two regarding masks that will go into effect on January 24, 2022. In response, at the meeting of the Hampton City School Board on Wednesday, January 19, 2022, the School Board ratified the HCS 2021-2022 Instruction & Health Mitigation Plan, to include updates. We will provide further communication to our staff and HCS families by no later than close of business on Friday, January 21, 2022, to clarify the expectation of face masks."
Hampton City Schools

Norfolk

The Norfolk School Board voted Wednesday night to continue the school system's existing mask policy after Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order rescinding mask mandates inside of schools.

The board’s vote requires everyone who rides NPS school buses and enter its schools and other facilities to remain masked. The division will continue to adhere to other COVID-19 safety protocols as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia and Norfolk Departments of Public Health.

Williamsburg-James City County

At its special call meeting Thursday, during which Executive Order Two and S.B. 1303 were the sole discussion items, the WJCC School Board voted to have all students, staff and visitors continue to wear masks while in the school district's facilities or on buses.

WJCC Superintendent Dr. Olwen Herron issued the following letter after the meeting:

Dear WJCC Schools community,

As a result of today’s Special Call School Board meeting, all students, staff, and visitors to WJCC Schools will continue to wear masks while in WJCC Schools facilities or on buses. This decision was made in accordance with current law (Senate Bill 1303) and our attorney’s guidance. Masks are a key layer of our mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep our schools open for in-person learning, five days per week.

We are committed to stepping down our mitigation strategies – including masking – when our Health Advisory Team indicates it is operationally safe to do so. Now is not that time. The elimination of masks during our current community surge, when transmission rates are at the highest point during the pandemic, may eliminate our ability to keep schools open. We need all our staff (teachers, bus drivers, administrators, cafeteria workers, operational staff, etc.) in place to provide a safe environment for our students and support in-person learning.

Our decisions have and continue to focus on the collective safety of the WJCC Schools community and our commitment to provide in-person instruction. Thank you for your shared partnership in this commitment.
Dr. Olwen Herron, superintendent of Williamsburg-James City County Schools

Chesapeake

In a vote of 7-1, members of the Chesapeake School Board voted to give parents the option whether or not to have masks for their student.

The motion will start Monday. January 24.

On Tuesday, 13 Chesapeake Public Schools parents filed a lawsuit, in which they state that Gov. Youngkin does not have the authority that he claims to make masks optional in schools.

Thursday, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said he asked the Supreme Court of Virginia to dismiss the lawsuit against Youngkin and Executive Order Two.

Portsmouth

The Portsmouth School Board voted Thursday voted to affirm Virginia Senate Bill 1303, which requires school divisions to adhere to the mitigation strategies provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently, the CDC recommends masking for all students, staff and visitors in schools, regardless of their vaccination status.

As a result, there will be no change to Portsmouth Public Schools' masking procedures. All students, staff and visitors must remain masked while on school property.

Virginia Beach

The Virginia Beach School Board voted Thursday to allow parents to opt their child out of the mask requirement. The vote was 9-2.

The board approved the administration's recommendation to accommodate Executive Order Two while also following S.B. 1303 and guidance from the CDC, Virginia Beach Department of Public Health and American Academy of Pediatrics with three amendments:

  • The motion requires masks to be worn in school clinics.
  • The motion also directs the Administration to create a mechanism for parents to notify the division that they want to opt their child out of the mask requirement.
  • The motion also directs the Administration to acquire a supply of KN95 masks as quickly as possibly for students and staff who need them.

Isle of Wight County

School board members in Isle of Wight County voted Thursday to keep the mask mandate for Isle of Wight County Schools in place.

York County

The York County School Division decided on January 21 that it will continue to implement the layered mitigation strategies that have been in place in its schools throughout this school year – including requiring all students, staff and visitors to wear masks inside school buildings and on school buses – until further notice.

School officials will continue to consult with local and state officials, as well as legal counsel, and will implement and adjust layered mitigation strategies accordingly.

Suffolk

In a letter sent to families on Monday, January 24, Suffolk Public Schools announced it will continue to adhere to the CDC's recommendations regarding universal indoor masking for grades K-12. All students, staff and visitors must wear a mask while on school property or while using SPS-provided transportation, in accordance with federal law, regardless of vaccination status.

SPS will strictly enforce mask-wearing and will provide masks to any student and/or staff member on school property without one or any student entering the bus without one.

Students who refuse to wear a mask will conference with their school administration, who will then develop a plan of action for instruction, as well as the health and safety of all students and staff.

Poquoson

The Poquoson School Board has voted to make wearing masks optional starting Monday, January 24, the same day Youngkin's executive order is set to take effect.

The new policy will make it optional to wear a mask for all students, staff and guests visiting any Poquoson public school. The amendment passed 4-1, with two members abstaining.

The board also voted to suspend the district's contact tracing and quarantine oversight, which will be effective beginning Wednesday, January 26.

Accomack County

Superintendent Chris Holland announced at the January 18 school board meeting, due to COVID health concerns, they decided not to follow Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order #2.

They approved to continue mask requirements for students, staff, and visitors in all of Accomack County Public Schools until further notice. This was decided in compliance with Senate Bill #1303.

Northampton

The Northampton County Public Schools administration and school board have decided to sustain their mask policy for students, staff, and visitors.

Surry

"This week will be a hybrid instruction week where parents can choose to send their children to school or allow them to access instruction virtually at home. Please do not put your child on a bus or bring them to school without a mask since our mask policy is still in effect until it is revised by our School Board."

They will hold a school board meeting Thursday, January 27 at 6 p.m. to hear parents' views on mask-wearing.

Acknowledging parents' strong opinions on the mandate, the Surry County Sheriff's Office said it has "no lawful authority to enforce the executive order by the governor or the administrative guidelines set by school administration. However, we are committed to enforce Virginia laws relating to the safety and security of students, staff, and parents on school property."

Southampton County

Southampton County Public School Board voted Monday night to keep the mask mandate in place. Everyone must wear a mask in our schools and on our buses.

Mathews County

The Mathews County School Board voted 3-2 in support that employees and parent/students’ have a choice to wear a mask inside the school facilities.

This story will continue to be updated as more local school boards vote on the mask mandate.

Click here for more Safely at School coverage.