Masking an option at CCPS

Published 8:15 am Thursday, January 27, 2022

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Referred to as “Mask Monday,” across the Commonwealth students headed back to the classroom on Monday, Jan. 24, with an option as to whether to wear a mask in class or not.

One of his first orders as newly elected Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin lifted the statewide COVID-19 mask mandate in K-12 schools.

The governor’s order states that parents with children in public schools “may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school.”

“I believe children need to be in the classroom five days a week,” Youngkin said. “And I also believe we can, in fact, balance the needs of our children with the health and safety of our children. And I don’t believe that mandating masks in school is the right way.”

Following the executive order on Saturday, Jan. 15, many school districts across the state said they would be keeping its mask requirements in place, while others said they needed more time to weigh the issue.

On Friday, Jan. 21, Charlotte County Public Schools (CCPS) Superintendent Robbie Mason announced that the school division would follow the Gov.’s executive order and give parents the right to choose but only to a certain extent.

“As we have done with other requirements from the state, and after consultation with our school board attorney, Charlotte County Public Schools will follow the executive order and allow parents to decide whether they will opt their students out of CCPS masking,” Mason said in his announcement.

This decision by CCPS comes just days after the division shut down schools and returned to short-term remote learning due to surging COVID-19 cases among staff and students.

On Monday, Jan. 24, students were set to return to in-person instruction, but icy road conditions delayed the return until Tuesday, Jan. 25.

Mason also reminded parents in his announcement that students are still required by federal law to wear masks on school buses and in county cars. This requirement for mask-wearing on buses and in county cars includes during transport to and from school, to and from extra- or co-curricular competitions, and on field trips.

CCPS staff or visitors, however, are not exempt from masking.

Mason said due to Department of Labor requirements, masking is mandatory for CCPS staff. “Parents and visitors to our schools are also required to wear face coverings,” he added.

Despite the lifting of the mask mandate, several school districts across the Commonwealth have vowed to uphold the mandate, with some parents and school districts going as far as filing lawsuits.

On Tuesday, Jan. 18, just three days after Gov. Youngkin’s order, a group of Chesapeake parents filed suit against the Gov. seeking to have his order declared void and unenforceable because the Gov. does not have the power to use an Executive Order to overturn or override established state law.

Since then, Alexandria, Arlington, Richmond, Falls Church, Fairfax and Prince William school districts have filed suits.