HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Hanover School Board decided to allow families and staff the option of wearing masks in schools in a close vote during a heated meeting on Tuesday night. Masks will be optional regardless of vaccination status in school buildings and outdoors.

Hanover County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Gill presented a recommendation at the meeting that all unvaccinated students and staff would be required to wear masks at all times except when eating or distanced outdoors.

Gill’s recommendation drew immediate backlash from the crowd with people in attendance yelling, getting out of their seats and openly voicing their opposition to the proposal. It got to the point where officials had to threaten to have the deputy remove the crowd from the meeting.

The rowdiness grew to the point where school board members could no longer run the meeting and they had to temporarily exit the room. The people in the room remained heated and vocal but eventually came to a consensus to compose themselves while the school board deliberated.

When school board members returned to the room they explained that anyone who needed to be escorted out by the deputy could watch the meeting on their own from the parking lot.

Most of the board members that spoke out after the small break were not in favor of Gill’s recommendation. Instead, they suggested that masking will be up to the individual and no mandate would be in place. They agreed to continue reviewing health guidelines and metrics throughout the year.

The motion to make masks an individual choice passed in a 4-3 vote. The only exception will be school buses where everyone is federally mandated to wear a mask.

Only a short portion of the meeting was spent discussing state guidelines for schools such as Virginia Department of Health stating last week that mask guidance has shifted to align with CDC guidelines. According to the state and Gov. Northam, all students and staff are supposed to mask up, regardless of vaccination status.

Whether or not localities are legally required to follow this guidance is being challenged based on different interpretations of Senate Bill 1303.