RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — Richmond and Henrico school officials are increasingly defiant of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order which would allow parents to oppose their local school district’s mask mandates.
Richmond, the City of Alexandria, Henrico, Fairfax and Arlington County public schools have all said their mask mandates will remain. The schools cite an existing Virginia law that says districts should follow CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 “in a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable” aligned with CDC guidance.”
Richmond’s School Board voted to uphold the district’s existing mask mandate at a meeting later that night. RPS’ current rules require all students, staff and visitors, ages 2 years old and up, to wear masks indoors.
The resolution the School Board passed cites existing Virginia law giving powers to local school boards to make their own decisions about certain policies. The law, SB 1303, also says districts have to mitigate all COVID spread to the fullest extent possible.
The resolution also cited RPS’ reopening plan from 2020 which requires masks for students, staff and visitors.
Board member Jonathan Young proposed amending the resolution to allow parents to make their own decision on the mask mandate. No one seconded this amendment, so it failed.
Henrico County Public Schools announced on Sunday that it would continue to require students, staff and visitors to wear face masks indoors.
“Mask use is a vital component of the division’s layered prevention measures, which reduce the spread of illness in our schools and increase the division’s ability to offer in-person instruction as mandated by state law,” Henrico Schools said in its announcement.
Chesterfield County Public Schools has not indicated how they plan to handle the executive order yet.
Goochland County Public Schools indicated Monday they will not preempt the Governor’s order, but the district did not say how they plan to respond.
“Our division asks for your patience and understanding as we navigate this current situation,” a statement from the district said.
A lawsuit filed by Chesapeake City Public Schools parents also alleges the state government is infringing on the duties set by and for local school boards. While the order does not take effect until Jan. 24, the Chesapeake lawsuit asks the Virginia Supreme Court to suspend the order as it is litigated.
The Youngkin administration said the reason for the executive order is to restore “liberty” to parents and allow them to make decisions for their children in schools.
“We will continue to protect parents’ fundamental right to make decisions with regard to their child’s upbringing, education and care,” a spokesperson for the governor said.