Virginia Beach School Board votes to keep masks mandatory in schools

Resolution failed in an 8-3 vote
kids masks classroom school children
Posted at 3:09 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 23:14:35-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Students and staff in Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) will continue to mask up.

Monday, Virginia Beach School Board members held a special meeting to decide whether to make masks optional in schools.

Masking in schools is an issue on which parents and school board members remain divided.

"This is about choice. This is about liberty. This is about freedom," VBCPS At-Large School Board Member Victoria Manning said.

"Doing it in the winter when the new and a very contagious variant, seems foolish and short-sighted to me," VBPCS At-Large School Board Member Dottie Holtz said.

In a vote of 8-3, a VBCPS resolution to make masks and face coverings optional in all buildings and offices in the school district, both indoors and outdoors, failed. Masks would have been optional for all students, staff and guests within the district.

This comes after at least one other Hampton Roads school district decided to make masks optional starting next year.

Had it passed, the policy would have started when students return from winter break on Jan. 3, 2022.

"This is about being a community," Tonya Rivers, who opposed the optional masking resolution, told News 3.

Rivers has two kids in elementary school. She believes the right decision was made Monday night.

"Both of my kids are fully vaccinated now, but just being vaccinated isn’t enough. As we know, vaccines don’t stop COVID completely," Rivers said. "There needs to be layered mitigation strategies to help stop it from spreading to other people."

Meanwhile, Chas Faison joined others at a rally outside before the special meeting.

"You’re just dealing with the emotions and what your children are going through on a daily basis in a situation they’re not in control of," Faison told News 3.

VB school masks rally (December 20).jpg

Faison, along with others at the rally, advocated for optional masking and parental rights.

"My younger son has sensory issues. For as gifted as he is, he hates going to school because of having to wear these masks. We went through four or five different masks for him to figure out which one was acceptable to him for him to make it through the day," Faison said. "Your situation may be different than somebody else’s. If they choose to wear a mask, that’s fine. But, in our situation, we don’t need to do that."

Some school board members mentioned they're for looking at data after the holidays before making a decision on masking.

"I feel like that’s important," VBCPS At-Large School Board Member Beverly Anderson said. "There are going to be a lot of people traveling. There are going to be a lot of people together in groups."

Meanwhile, kids will continue to mask up in 2022.

"We need to figure out some ways to take precautions but get back to some sense of normalcy because this COVID situation could be going on for a very long time," VBCPS At-Large School Board Member Jennifer Franklin said.

Along with an optional masking resolution vote, school board members also held a discussion regarding student-athletes being required to provide proof of vaccination and/or test for athletic clubs or non-Virginia High School League (VHSL) programs.

Click here for more Safely at School coverage.