(WFXR) — After Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued Executive Order 2 on his first day in office — ending mandates on masks at schools — a number of school districts in southwest and central Virginia decided to either comply with the governor’s order or keep mask mandates in place for students and teachers.

Youngkin’s Executive Order 2, allowing parents to choose whether their children wear masks at school, is set to go into effect on Jan. 24.

However, according to Virginia Senate Bill 1303 (SB1303), which does not expire until Aug. 1, “Each school board shall…provide such in-person interaction in a manner that adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

On Feb. 4, though, a Virginia judge temporarily blocked Youngkin’s mask-optional order for students in schools, siding with seven school boards that sued over the policy that allowed parents to decide whether to send their children to class without a face covering.

Then, on Feb. 9, the Virginia Senate passed a bill allowing parents to send their children to school without a mask. Three Democrats joined the Republicans in the chamber to approve the measure, which effectively bans public school boards from imposing mask mandates on students.

Meanwhile, in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, a similar bill advanced earlier in the day on Feb. 9.

On Feb. 14, the General Assembly officially passed a bill to make masks optional in Virginia’s K-12 schools by July 1.

However, by the time Youngkin signed the bill — dubbed Senate Bill 739 (SB739) — on Feb. 16, the House of Delegates voted to include the governor’s emergency amendment in the legislation, which means that masks will be optional in all Virginia schools no later than March 1.

Another amendment passed on Feb. 16 clarifies Youngkin still has emergency powers to reinstate a mask mandate if needed, according to WFXR’s Capitol Bureau reporter Jackie DeFusco.

Meanwhile, students and drivers were required to wear masks on school buses and cars through March 18 due to a requirement from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlined a new set of mask guidelines on Feb. 25, which no longer mandate masks on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems, including early care and education/childcare programs.

Here is a list of school districts around the region that have either made a decision about mask mandates or have set a date to address the matter as of 7:17 a.m. on March 4:

Alleghany Highlands:

Alleghany County:

The Alleghany County School Board had called for a special meeting on Feb. 7, but the meeting was postponed after COVID-19 cases were confirmed among the district’s central office staff. Any items that were on the agenda for Feb. 7 will now be discussed during the board’s regular monthly meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 21.

However, on Feb. 10, Alleghany County Public Schools announced that students will no longer be required to wear face coverings indoors at school. The district says this decision comes in anticipation of the passage of a new state law allowing parents to choose whether their children wear masks at school.

In anticipation of the passage of a new state law that will allow parents to determine whether or not their child wears a mask at school, the Alleghany County Public Schools will transition to mask-optional for students starting Monday, February 14, 2022. 

Even though Alleghany County Public Schools will no longer require students to wear masks indoors, mask-wearing will be welcomed and encouraged because it has been an effective component of the school division’s layered COVID-19 mitigation strategies. Those strategies have helped schools maintain in-person instruction throughout the academic year.

“We have been so grateful for everyone’s patience as we have worked through some confusion between language in EO2 and SB1303. We appreciate the added clarity of the current context. Again, we are so thankful for the mutual respect in our community, even when individuals have differing opinions,” said Alleghany County School Superintendent Kim Halterman. 

On Wednesday, February 9, 2022, the Virginia Senate approved SB739, which states that parents can determine if their child wears a mask at school. The bill is expected to clear the General Assembly and be signed into law by the governor in the reasonably near future. 

Currently, the Virginia Department of Health still considers Alleghany County a high transmission area for COVID-19. Students who are part of clinical settings in schools, such as the school nurse’s clinic, will be strongly encouraged to wear masks to help mitigate the spread of COVID and other infectious diseases.

The masking opt-out in schools will not apply to faculty and staff. Masks will still be required for all employees while inside K-12 school buildings. This is required by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Department of Labor and Industry while Alleghany County is in a period of high transmission. 

Additionally, students participating in special programs, including programs at other sites and work-based learning experiences, will need to follow the masking requirements of their host facility. A federal mandate still requires students to wear masks while aboard school buses. The masking regulation on buses is required regardless of a student’s vaccination status or masking choices while in a school building.

In following the latest guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alleghany County Public Schools will continue to permit persons self-identified as a close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual to quarantine for five days. 

The individual will be allowed to return to school on day six if they remain symptom-free during days 1-5 of their quarantine period. This will be contingent upon the individual consistently and correctly wearing a mask through day 10 when they return to school. Those who cannot consistently or correctly wear a mask for any reason will be required to stay at home for the full ten days following an exposure.

Statement released on Feb. 10, 2022 by Alleghany County Public Schools

Bath County:

On Jan. 22, the Bath County School Board unanimously voted to follow Youngkin’s Executive Order 2 and no longer mandate face coverings for students, staff and visitors in school facilities. Masking will be optional.

With federal mask requirements still in effect for public transportation, masks will still be required for students when they get on the bus, while riding, and when they exit the bus.

Also, students who are returning to school after being quarantined or isolated will be required to wear masks for five days.

Covington:

The Covington City School Board voted on Jan. 21 to align the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan with Youngkin’s Executive Order 2, effective Jan. 24. Therefore, Covington City Public Schools will not require masks for students, staff or visitors while on school property. However, the federal mask requirement for school buses is still in place.

On Friday, January 21, 2022, the Covington City School Board voted to align the Covington City Public Schools COVID-19 mitigation plan with Executive Order No. 2 issued by Governor Glenn Youngkin on January 15, 2022. Executive Order No. 2 will take effect on Monday, January 24, 2022.

Masking is still recommended as part of the school division’s mitigation strategies, however, beginning January 24, 2022, Covington City Public Schools will no longer require that students, staff, and visitors wear masks while on school property. Masking will be optional. However, the federal mask requirement for public transportation is still in place; therefore, anyone riding a school bus will be required to wear
a mask when embarking, disembarking, and for the duration of the journey.

The School Board directed its central office staff to develop updated COVID-19 mitigation guidelines for school facilities. The staff will rely on direction from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Virginia Department of Health in developing the guidelines.

Persons seeking additional information should reach out to the school division at: ccpsinfo@covington.k12.va.us.

Statement released on Jan. 21, 2022 by Covington City Public Schools

Craig County:

According to Craig County Public Schools, the school board unanimously voted on Jan. 18 to no longer mandate face coverings for any student, staff member, or visitor in the district.

In addition, starting Feb. 28, Craig County Public Schools says masks will not be required on district school buses or other forms of student transportation.

Highland County:

Starting on Jan. 24, Highland County Public Schools says masks will be recommended to protect students and staff amid a high number of COVID-19 cases in the county. Even though mask mandates will not be enforced inside school, masks will still be required on school buses, as well as for staff members and adults inside the school building.

You can read the statement released by the district on Jan. 23 below:

Dear Highland County Public Schools Families,

Beginning on Monday January 24, 2022, masks will be recommended for the safety of all students, staff, and for the safety of the school. This is due to the high number of COVID cases in the county. However, based on the Governor’s order we will not be enforcing mask mandates inside the school. Due to Federal Law, masks will be required on all school buses. Staff and adults will be required to continue wearing masks while in the school building. The safety and well-being of our students and staff is the top priority of Highland County Public Schools.

Following the recommendation of the CDC and the VDH we have been able to keep our schools open for in person instruction with minimal number of positive cases and select quarantine. Without the masks Highland County Public Schools is concerned that a large number of students will need to be quarantined or will be infected with COVID.

Highland County Public Schools would like to thank the parents for their help and understanding during these difficult times.

Statement released on Jan. 23, 2022 by Highland County Public Schools

Lynchburg and Central Virginia:

Amherst County:

Amherst County Public Schools says the school board voted on Jan. 27 to continue its universal masking policy for students and staff while inside district facilities until Feb. 22, at which point masks will be made optional as long as the health data metrics do not exceed a certain level.

However, after a meeting on Feb. 10, the Amherst County School Board voted to make masks optional starting Feb. 22, with no predetermined metrics.

School board members also approved the implementation of a test-to-stay program until April 15, which allows students who come into close contact with COVID-positive people to remain in classrooms.

Appomattox County:

Appomattox County Public Schools announced on Jan. 21 that the district’s administration and the school board decided to follow Youngkin’s Executive Order 2, which means universal masking will no longer be enforced for students inside school buildings beginning Jan. 24.

Even though student masking in schools will be a parental decision, the district says students and staff traveling on public transportation — including school buses — must wear a mask. In addition, district employees will still be required to wear masks inside school buildings.

You can read the district’s full statement from Jan. 21 below:

Bedford County:

The Bedford County School Board decided on Jan. 20 to move up the district’s timeline for dismissing the mask mandate. Students and staff would only be required to wear masks through Jan. 21. Then, starting Jan. 24, masks would be optional.

Then, on Feb. 28, Bedford County Public Schools announced that “face masks will be optional by parental and/or student choice at all times including while riding school buses and other school division vehicles,” in light of the new CDC guidance.

In addition, during a specially-called meeting on March 3, the Bedford County School Board voted unanimously to make masks optional for all employees, effective immediately.

Campbell County:

Campbell County Public Schools announced on Feb. 24 that masks will be optional for district employees — including bus drivers — starting March 1.

Face coverings will also be optional for students who ride the bus and visitors who enter the district’s schools.

Lynchburg:

Lynchburg City Schools announced after a special school board meeting on Jan. 21 that the board voted to continue the mask mandate as outlined in the LCS Health Mitigation Plan — which includes universal mask-wearing, social distancing, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, and contact tracing — will continue.

However, after a Lynchburg School Board work session on Feb. 15, the board announced that masks will be optional for students starting March 1.
Superintendent Dr. Crystal Edwards recommended this move because of COVID-19 numbers trending down and the pending bill in the Virginia General Assembly banning school mask mandates.

Then, on March 1, Edwards made a recommendation — which was approved by the Lynchburg City School Board — to lift mask mandates for all students and staff on school property and school buses. Masks are now optional, but still encouraged.

Nelson County:

On Jan. 17, Nelson County Public Schools announced that the school board will continue to mandate masks inside school buildings until further notice based on the recommendations of health officials and legal counsel.

Last year’s General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1303 which is the current law in Virginia of which VA School Boards must abide. The bill requires each school board to provide such in-person instruction in a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bill has an expiration date of August 1, 2022.

Safety of students and staff is the top priority of the Nelson County School Board. Until individuals feel safe in their environment, teaching and learning cannot take place. In accordance with recommendations from the CDC, the Virginia Dept. of Health and the Blue Ridge Health District, and under the advice of counsel, the Nelson County School Board will continue to mandate the wearing of masks while in our buildings until further notice.

Statement released on Jan. 17, 2022 by Nelson County Public Schools

Then, on Feb. 25, Nelson County Public Schools released a letter saying that the school board decided to allow parents to choose whether their children to wear masks in schools starting on Feb. 28 following the passage of SB739. However, masks will still be required for staff members in school buildings, as well as for students and staff while riding on school buses and other forms of public transportation.

New River Valley:

Bland County:

Bland County Public Schools announced on Jan. 21 that the school board voted to allow masks to be optional for students during the school day, based on parental discretion; however, masks will still be required on all school buses.

In addition, all employees will still be required to wear masks until further notice.

Carroll County:

Starting Jan. 24, Carroll County Public Schools will implement Youngkin’s Executive Order 2 and allow parents to choose whether their children wear masks in school.
However, the district still strongly encouraged everyone to wear masks until the current COVID-19 surge from the omicron variant ends. In addition, masks were still required on school buses and for staff in schools.

The, on Feb. 28, Carroll County Public Schools announced that face masks would no longer be required for students or drivers on school buses starting March 1 because of the new CDC guidance.

Galax:

Galax City Public Schools announced on Jan. 21 that parents will be able to decide whether students wear masks in school starting on Jan. 24. However, staff members and visitors to school buildings will still need to wear face coverings.

You can read the district’s statement below:

Giles County:

Giles County Public Schools says masks will be optional for students — based on parental choice — while on school grounds starting Jan. 24, per Youngkin’s Executive Order 2. As a result, beginning Jan. 24, the district planned to operate under Phase 1 of the GCPS Opening Plan, which is included below:

Then, on March 1, Giles County Public Schools announced that masks will now be optional while riding school transportation due to the new CDC guidance.

Grayson County:

Grayson County Public Schools plans to follow Youngkin’s Executive Order 2, allowing parents to choose whether students wear masks at school starting on Jan. 24, with no requirement for parents to provide any reason, forms, or exemptions to the school for their decision. However, staff are still required to wear masks in schools, and masks are still required on school buses.

The district posted the following statement on Jan. 23:

Montgomery County:

The Montgomery County School Board voted 4-2 on Jan. 20 in favor of following SB1303 and keeping mask requirements at the district for the time being. You can watch a recording of the meeting by clicking here.

Pulaski County:

Pulaski County Public Schools announced on Jan. 18 the district plans to comply with Youngkin’s Executive Order 2 by making masks optional for students while on school grounds during the school day, based on parents’ preferences.

Then, on Feb. 28, Pulaski County Public Schools announced that the district will no longer require face masks on district school buses starting on March 1.

Radford:

According to Radford City Public Schools, the district has decided to “highly recommend that students and school community members continue to follow all mitigation strategies that are currently in place while in our school buildings… Additionally, students who have tested positive for COVID or have been directly exposed to COVID and who isolate or quarantine just five days, will be required to wear a mask on days 6-10 of their return to school or remain at home for the entire 10-day isolation/quarantine period.”

Meanwhile, all district faculty and staff will continue to wear masks, and masks will still be required on school buses.

The following letter from Radford City Public Schools Superintendent Robert F. Graham was released on Jan. 21:

Follow these links if you want to read the results from the district’s mask survey or the update to Radford City Public Schools’ Return to Learn plan.

Wythe County:

Wythe County Public Schools released a statement on Jan. 23, saying that the school board voted to follow the mandate set forth in Youngkin’s Executive Order 2, which allows parents to choose whether their children wear masks in school buildings.

Then, on Feb. 28, Wythe County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Wesley Poole released the following statement about no longer requiring masks on vehicles operated by the school division:

WCPS Families,

On Friday, February 25th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance pertaining to indoor masking, as well as masking on public school buses. Specifically, the CDC noted, they will not require students to wear masks on buses, vans, or cars operated by public or private school systems, including early care and education/child care programs. As such, beginning Tuesday, March 1st, Wythe County Public Schools will no longer require students to wear masks on vehicles operated by the school division. However, students still have the option to wear masks at their discretion.

Thank you,
Wesley Poole

Roanoke Valley:

Botetourt County:

Botetourt County Public Schools released a statement on Jan. 21 saying the school board decided to continue with the district’s mask mandate for students while at school based on the following reasons:

  • The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts’ current data shows the community transmission rate in the area is at this highest point since the start of the pandemic.
  • Newly-appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow has yet to issue guidance to school divisions about Executive Order 2.
  • The Virginia Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether Executive Order 2 can overturn SB1303 and other federal guidance.

The district also posted a following letter from Superintendent Jonathan D. Russ on Jan. 21 about transportation expectations and when to keep your children home from school:

The Botetourt County School Board held a special meeting on Jan. 24 to discuss operational clarifications involving the recent decision about Youngkin’s executive order.

During that meeting, the board voted on the following three measures:

  • The board voted 5-0 to uphold Youngkin’s executive order and make masks optional, but only if the Virginia Supreme Court upholds the order’s constitutionality.
  • The board voted 4-1 to set a date of March 7 for making masks optional for students, which allows families enough time to have their children fully-vaccinated, if they choose, and provides the Virginia Supreme Court with time to rule on the constitutionality of Executive Order 2.
  • The board voted 5-0 on exploring a “test-to-stay” program, which would allow the division to meet the needs of vaccinated and unvaccinated students.

Two weeks later, though, Botetourt County Public Schools announced that masks would no longer be mandatory for students in school starting Feb. 9. However, faculty and staff would still be required to wear masks inside all K-12 school buildings, and students would still be required to wear a mask while using transportation, regardless of their vaccination status.

However, starting Feb. 28, Botetourt County Public Schools says masks will be optional for all district staff members, as well as students using division transportation.

(Photo: Courtesy Botetourt County Public Schools Facebook)

Buena Vista:

On Jan. 27, the Buena Vista City School Board decided to continue with their policy of universal masking for all students, which meant Buena Vista City Public Schools would require all students and staff members to wear masks indoors.

However, on Feb. 18, the district announced that it would transition to a mask-optional learning environment for all students in Buena Vista City Public Schools buildings starting on Feb. 21, but this does not prevent students who want to wear a mask from doing so.
State regulations also still require staff members to wear masks in school buildings.

Meanwhile, in light of the updated CDC mask guidelines, Buena Vista City Public Schools says face coverings will be optional for students on school buses beginning Feb. 28.

Franklin County:

The Franklin County School Board held a meeting on Jan. 21; however, the final vote was 4-4, so no policy changes regarding masking at the district’s schools have taken effect. Therefore, the district will continue its current mitigation efforts, including requiring masks in school buildings and on buses.

Board members planned to take up the topic at their next meeting in February. In the meantime, Franklin County Public Schools shared the following message on Jan. 24:

Dear Franklin County Public School Families and Students

As I communicated on Friday, January 21, 2022, the School Board had a split vote regarding masking. As a result, we will continue with our current mitigation efforts, including wearing masks while in our school buildings and on the bus.

The purpose of today’s message is to provide additional information regarding the Executive Order No. 2. Governor Youngkin has issued a statement stating that parents may individually decide whether their child must wear a mask in school.

Late Friday afternoon, the VDH and VDOE provided Interim Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Virginia PreK-12 Schools. We are currently reviewing this information. The Supreme Court of Virginia has not yet ruled on whether Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order No. 2 can overturn state law (SB 1303), and other federal guidance, including that from the CDC.

As has always been the case, Franklin County Public Schools respects the authority of the governor as well as the rights of parents. We value the strong partnerships our schools have with parents and families in working together to help our students succeed and keep them safe. We truly could not have made it through the past two years without your support.

Please note the School Board may opt to adjust our mask policy in the future. We will keep our families and community informed if any changes occur. In the meantime, thank you for following our current mask policy and for your continued partnership as we work to keep our schools open and protect the health and safety of our students, staff, and families.

Sincerely,
Dr. Bernice Cobbs
Superintendent

Statement released on Jan. 24, 2022 by Franklin County Public Schools

Then, on Feb. 14, the Franklin County School Board held a meeting to discuss mask mandates. In a 5-3 vote, the board chose to make masks optional for students starting Feb. 15.

Lexington:

Lexington City Schools announced on Jan. 19 that the school board decided to continue requiring masks for students, staff, and visitors in the district’s schools until further notice, based on recommendations from health officials and legal counsel.
Following the guidance from the CDC and the VDH allowed Lexington City Schools to stay open for in-person learning, with no in-school transmission and a minimal number of positive COVID-19 cases during the current school year, the district says.
In addition, according to school officials, the Central Shenandoah Health District’s latest information says that Lexington and Rockbridge County are still considered as high-risk for transmission.
Based on the high transmissibility of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, as well as the fact that we are currently in the middle of the winter season and flu season, the district stresses the importance of keeping the current health protocols in place.

Then, on Feb. 16, the Lexington City School Board voted to transition to a mask-optional learning environment for students within the district’s buildings starting Feb. 28. However, all students will need to keep wearing masks on the shuttle bus, and all staff members will still need to wear masks in school buildings.

(Photo: Courtesy Lexington City Schools Facebook)

Roanoke City:

Roanoke City Public Schools announced on Jan. 18 that the district will continue to require students, staff, and visitors to wear face masks in all schools and on school buses — as medically and developmentally appropriate — while awaiting further guidance from the Virginia legislature or other directives from the CDC.

Then, on Feb. 18, Roanoke City Public Schools posted a statement saying that parents need to fill out a form in order to opt their child out of the requirement to wear a face covering while in school, as well as providing information about the district’s test-to-stay program.

Less than two weeks later, the district shared the following message on behalf of the Roanoke City School Board:

As we have throughout the pandemic, Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) continues to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), our local health officials, and the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. We want to thank you for your support as recommendations continue to change.

On Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, the CDC announced significant changes to recommended COVID-19 mitigation strategies, including those for schools. The changes included revised metrics and strategies that communities, school districts, and families should consider when making decisions about health and safety related to COVID. More information can be found on the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.

Based on the new guidance and metrics from the CDC, Roanoke City’s COVID-19 community level is currently “medium.” After discussions with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and careful review of the information released by the CDC, RCPS continues to recommend face coverings; however, we will no longer require face coverings for students, vaccinated staff, and visitors. This is in alignment with the CDC revisions and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, and will go into effect immediately.

Students and staff are welcome to continue wearing a mask if they choose. Parents no longer need to notify schools of their choice to opt their student out of wearing a face covering.

In addition, face coverings will be optional on school buses. This change is also in alignment with the CDC announcement made late Friday. You can find more information at: https://www.cdc.gov/…/face-masks-public-transportation….

We will continue to monitor any changes in the guidance from the CDC and the VDH, and will communicate with you if we need to adjust our mitigation strategies.

Once again, thank you for your continued support of Roanoke City Public Schools.

Statement released on Feb. 28, 2022 by Roanoke City Public Schools

Roanoke County:

On Jan. 5, before Youngkin even took office, the Roanoke County School Board voted in favor of making masks optional in the classroom if Youngkin rolled back the current public health order from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

However, during a meeting on Jan. 6, the school board voted 4-1 to rescind the aforementioned motion, saying that removing the mask requirement for students would violate state law.

Then, on Jan. 21, Roanoke County Public Schools announced that the district will continue to require masks for students, staff, and visitors in schools until they receive additional state guidance and review it for safe implementation.

During an hours-long meeting on Jan. 27, though, the Roanoke County School Board voted 4-1 to make masks optional in schools starting Feb. 14.

Several weeks later, Roanoke County Public Schools made an additional announcement about its mask policies, saying that neither students nor staff would be required to wear masks inside school buildings or on school buses beginning Feb. 28 due to the new guidelines from the CDC.

Rockbridge County:

Rockbridge County Public Schools announced on Jan. 20 plans to continue mandating masks for everyone inside district facilities throughout the school day, saying they observed the learning loss that takes place when students participate in remote instruction, which inspired them to work to keep students in school on a regular basis, five full days a week. Therefore, the district would continue following SB1303 and requiring masks during the school day, except when eating, drinking, or taking mask breaks.

Then, on Feb. 17, Rockbridge County Public Schools announced the district would transition to a mask-optional learning environment for all students in district’s buildings starting Feb. 28.
School officials say this decision was made following the passage of SB739, which enables parents of students in public elementary and secondary schools, as well as in public school-based early childhood care and education programs, the ability to choose whether their children wears masks on school property.

In addition, effective Feb. 28, Rockbridge County Public Schools will no longer require students to wear masks on school buses due to the new CDC guidance.

(Photo: Courtesy Rockbridge County Public Schools Facebook)

Salem:

The Salem City School Board held a work session on Jan. 28, during which time members were set to discuss the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan, including updated guidance. That mitigation plan is included below:

Southside Virginia:

Charlotte County:

Charlotte County Public Schools will follow Youngkin’s Executive Order 2 and allow parents to decide whether they want their children to opt out of the district’s masking requirements starting Jan. 24. However, parents are asked to send a note with their children about opting them out of the policy.

Staff, parents, and visitors to schools still need to wear face coverings, though, as well as students while on buses and inside county cars.

The district shared the following statement on Jan. 21:

CCPS Parents,

Governor Youngkin issued an executive order requiring school divisions to allow parents the opportunity to opt their children out of masking requirements set forth by localities effective January 24th. 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 requirements beginning Monday. Parents should send a note with their children to school on Monday opting them out of our masking policy if they so choose. Also, an opt-out form will be sent home with students on Monday. If you choose for your students not to opt out, you need not take any action.

Please note 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. 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.

Despite student masking being a parental decision beginning next week, as superintendent, I strongly encourage each of our families to continue requiring their children to mask at school. We are currently experiencing a surge of cases in Charlotte County and masking may prevent your child from contracting COVID. Currently, CDC school guidance does not require students who sit at least three feet apart to quarantine if one child becomes COVID-positive as long as both students are masked. If either child does not wear a mask in the classroom, the CDC requires six-foot distancing standards to be implemented for quarantines. While we are maximizing distancing between students, some of our classrooms do not allow for six-foot distancing.

Charlotte County Public Schools will continue disinfecting classrooms and common areas, encouraging handwashing, and distancing students to the greatest extent possible. Student vaccinations continue to be an important tool for keeping students safe and in school. Please explain to your children that some students will wear masks beginning Monday, while others will not. Remind them to be respectful of everyone’s choice. Again, it is your right as a parent to decide whether your child wears a mask, but I strongly encourage you to continue having your child wear a mask until new case counts decrease in our community.

Robbie Mason, CCPS Superintendent

Statement released on Jan. 21, 2022 by Charlotte County Public Schools

Halifax County:

During a special meeting on Jan. 24, the Halifax County School Board voted to require masks both on buses and in schools through Feb. 2.

Henry County:

Henry County Public Schools announced on Jan. 21 that the school board decided to make masks optional for students in schools, but staff members will still have to wear masks in school.

You can read the full statement from the district below:

Dear HCPS Families:

Throughout the course of the pandemic, Henry County Public Schools has followed the guidance of CDC, VDH, VDOE, and our state government. On January 15, Governor Youngkin issued Executive Order 2 (EO2), which assures parents the option to determine whether their students wear a mask while in the public school setting. EO2 takes effect on Monday, January 24. By majority consensus of the School Board, on this day, HCPS will move to a mask optional status for students in our schools. In accordance with DOLI standards, staff members will still be required to wear masks in school. At this time, federal law (Executive Order 13998) requires the wearing of masks on public transportation; therefore, students and staff will still be required to wear masks while on HCPS school buses.

It is important to note that there are several members in our school community who have health concerns that warrant mask wearing for those individuals. They may also ask students and staff members to consider wearing a mask as an additional protective measure when they are together. While it is not required that someone asked to wear a mask comply with this request, mask wearing is still encouraged when school community members feel it is appropriate to do so.

Virginia SB 1303 (signed into law on March 30, 2021) directs school divisions to remain open for in-person instruction and that, to the extent practicable, schools follow CDC guidelines regarding quarantine and isolation periods as part of COVID mitigation. At this time, those guidelines state that an unmasked school community member who is exposed to COVID must quarantine. 

However, a school community member who is exposed
while masked 
and/or who has received the COVID booster (age 12 or older) or his/her second dose of the vaccine in the last 5 months (ages 5-11) 
and/or who has had COVID within the last 90 days 
will not need to quarantine. 

HCPS will continue to follow CDC quarantine and isolation guidelines as we work to support the health of our school community members.

It is our goal to keep students and staff in school and to keep our schools open for instruction every day of the school year. In addition to advising school community members to wear a mask, we will continue to support our staff and students by providing COVID tests for those who exhibit symptoms and desire a test, providing N95 masks for staff members who prefer to wear those at work, sanitizing and deep cleaning our schools and spaces regularly, and encouraging healthy hygiene practices including staying home if you do not feel well.

We have been masking and it has been effective in keeping schools open. We continue to encourage mask wearing and will assume you plan for your child to continue to do so; however, if you prefer for your child to opt out of wearing a mask, please contact your student’s school or teacher. Should you have any questions regarding health and safety practices in our schools, please contact your school principal.

Statement released on Jan. 21, 2022 by Henry County Public Schools

Martinsville:

Martinsville City Public Schools announced on Feb. 23 that parents will be allowed to opt their children out of the district’s requirement for students to wear masks inside of school buildings, but families will need to notify the students’ principals in writing.
However, masks are still required for students on buses, as well as staff members inside school buildings.

(Photo: Courtesy Martinsville City Public Schools Facebook)

Pittsylvania County:

Pittsylvania County Schools decided to let parents decide whether their children wear masks in school starting Jan. 24, but announced on Jan. 21 that the mask requirements would continue for employees and on school buses.

Then, on Feb. 27, Pittsylvania County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Jones sent the following email to the district:

On February 25, the CDC announced significant changes in its COVID-19 orders and mitigation strategies that affect K-12 schools.  These changes include revised metrics and strategies that communities, school districts, and families should consider when making decisions about health and safety related to COVID. 

After careful review of the announcements from CDC, Pittsylvania County Schools will make further adjustments in previous mask requirements.  These changes align with the CDC revisions and will go into effect Monday, February 28, 2022. 

On Monday, February 28, student masks will be optional on school buses.  This change aligns with the CDC announcement made last Friday removing school buses from its transportation mask order.  Masks will also be optional for employees.  This change reflects the new CDC metrics and actions taken by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry to eliminate their requirement in March.  Students and employees who choose to wear masks are welcome to do so.”

Email sent to Pittsylvania County Schools email accounts on Feb. 27, 2022 by Division Superintendent Dr. Mark R. Jones

This story will be updated as more information comes into the newsroom.