VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - An elementary school teacher has resigned over masks becoming optional at city schools, the teacher wrote in an op-ed published in the Virginian Pilot this week.
Clark Murphy was a special education teacher at Corporate Landing Elementary School. He says he has a chronic health condition that could put him at increased risk of serious complications from getting COVID-19.
"I am now heartbroken to have to leave my students and resign from teaching," Murphy wrote.
Murphy decided to step down following the school board's vote to make masks optional in schools. That vote followed Gov. Glenn Youngkin signing an executive order saying parents can opt their kids out of wearing masks.
The executive order faced a series of legal challenges, but this week the General Assembly passed a bill making masks optional at all schools in Virginia. Gov. Youngkin signed the bill into law on Wednesday afternoon.
Locally, News 3 checked in with education groups about whether or not other teachers are considering stepping down. The groups said there are rumblings teachers may be considering stepping down or retiring earlier than they had planned.
"When you ask, 'Why are teachers leaving?' the cons have finally outweighed the pros, so teachers are struggling. Then, you just look at it - 'Do I stay the course, or do I leave?'" said Kathleen Slinde, the president of the Virginia Beach Education Association.
A spokesperson for the Virginia Beach school system said they have not heard of any other teachers resigning due to masks becoming optional.
The spokesperson said there are 112 instructional vacancies within the school system currently, which is more or less the same as it's been throughout the school year.
The Portsmouth School Board Chair Dr. Cardell Patillo said they had hoped to keep masking in place. "We've already heard reports of staff in other cities leaving and resigning because masks became an option," said Patillo. "I hope that's not a nationwide trend and I definitely hope it doesn't hit Portsmouth."
Dr. James Fedderman, the President of the Virginia Education Association, told News 3 better pay and more teacher input would help address morale issues.
"We firmly believe that any decision relative to education should be made at the local level, so we believe that educators should be brought to the table with their school boards and their central office administration," said Fedderman.