POWHATAN, Va. (WRIC)– This Monday Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order which allows parents to opt their child out of wearing masks in schools will take effect — and Powhatan County will be one of the many districts where students will not have to wear one.
Back in December, long before Youngkin’s order, the Powhatan County Public Schools Board met and voted unanimously in favor of allowing parents the choice for masks in the classroom. Then last weekend, that same measure became an executive order from Governor Youngkin.
James Taylor, a School Board member representing the fourth district, said this was the right thing to do.
“It’s about freedom. It’s about putting the choice back into the hands of parents,” he said. “It also has to do with just the emotional and the social and even the physical damage that’s being done to students.”
Taylor made the motion in November to change the policy to mask-optional once Governor Youngkin signed the executive order.
While some parents agree with the board’s decision, others like Alicia Amos said it’s disappointing. She has a 10-year-old daughter that attends a Powhatan County Elementary School.
“It’s always a concern about how she’ll be treated with other children for wearing a mask and if she might get sick and bring it home to us or her elderly grandparents,” Amos said.
Taylor said bullying of any kind will not be tolerated. However, Amos said the board acted too early and is now concerned that their health will be jeopardized.
“I just thought it was premature because we still have so many kids in these classrooms,” she said. “I just knew there were going to be surges.”
Powhatan Schools saw a spike in COVID-19 cases recently with the district’s COVID dashboard reporting 98 cases earlier this week. Taylor said despite a rise in cases, he stands by the governor’s executive order and hopes the number of people testing positive will soon decrease.
“Yeah we’re concerned about that, but at the same time, we’re more concerned about freedom,” he said. “We’re more concerned about parents having a choice.”
The school boards’ optional mask policy goes into effect Monday, while all other safety protocols like cleaning and social distancing remain in place.