RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia General Assembly has passed a bill to make masks optional in the state’s K-12 schools.

The legislation was delivered to Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who is expected to sign it and add an amendment recommending an emergency clause that could put the law into effect as soon as the end of the month.

The move, which 8News learned last week the governor intends to make, would need to be approved by the General Assembly with a majority vote. If Youngkin does not include the clause, the legislation would take effect in July.

The legislation requires schools to have in-person instruction and gives parents the option to send their children to class without a mask.

The Virginia House of Delegates voted 52-48 along party lines to pass the measure Monday, nearly a week after three Democrats joined Republicans to advance the bill out of the Virginia Senate.

Debate in the House mirrored the partisan disputes over mask mandates in schools that have persisted throughout the legislative session, with Republicans championing parents’ choice and Democrats expressing concerns over the unpredictability of COVID-19.

“Parents are best positioned to evaluate the risks and benefits of masking to their child, and this bill will allow them to do so,” Del. Amanda Batten (R-James City), the sponsor of the House’s bill, said Monday.

Democrats argued the bill would strip school boards of their authority to consider local data and implement specific COVID-19 mitigation guidelines, saying their main concern was ensuring students remain in school without disruption due to high case levels.

Republicans pushed back on those arguments, noting their own concerns that masks lead to communication issues in schools and stifle childhood development. “They [masks] muffle communication, they muffle the lessons,” Del. Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) said.

House Democrats proposed amendments to add a sunset to the bill to make it expire in a year and another removing the amendment giving parents the option on masks for their children in school. Both were rejected on party-line votes.

“If this bill passes, and it pains me to say this, well welcome to Florida!” House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) said before the vote Monday. “The local school divisions do not have any say in Florida. And if this bill passes today, they will not here in the commonwealth either.”

Youngkin applauded the bill’s passage, tweeting that the legislature “took a significant step for parents and children.” Two aides for Youngkin confirmed Monday that an emergency clause would be added and head back to the General Assembly for a vote.