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Chesapeake teacher's union plans protest ahead of new mask guidelines taking effect

Chesapeake Public Schools is one of four school divisions in Hampton Roads making masks optional, as Gov. Youngkin's executive order goes into effect Jan. 24.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — On Monday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order goes into effect requiring all school systems in Virginia to make mask-wearing for their students optional.  

As of this week, most school systems in Hampton Roads have decided to continue requiring students and teachers to wear masks while in school.  

RELATED: Most school systems in Hampton Roads will continue to require masks

Four school divisions in the area elected to go along with the governor's order: Gloucester County Public Schools, Poquoson City Public Schools, Virginia Beach City Public Schools and Chesapeake Public Schools. 

On Friday, Youngkin released COVID-19 mitigation strategies for K-12 schools and update guidelines to go along with the Executive Order in coordination with the Virginia Department of Health. 

"This guidance provides further details for local health and school officials and parents to inform their decision making around COVID-19," the guidelines read. "The benefit of mitigation efforts must always be weighed against the cost to children’s overall wellbeing."

For a full copy of the guidelines, click here

RELATED: Mask or no mask? Many School Board leaders in Hampton Roads are taking votes

In Chesapeake, some teachers are voicing their concerns about the changes. 

The Chesapeake Education Association ratified a vote of no confidence in the school board's decision to make masks optional. 

“Sometimes, as much as it kind of hurts, you have to prove a point," said Amanda Lambert, a Chesapeake Public Schools teacher and parent.  

Lambert told 13NewsNow she is concerned about the new mask rules. 

“Many of my students are immunocompromised. Many of my peers are immunocompromised," she said. "I have a pre-existing health condition. So I, myself, have to be careful, which is why I'm careful with me and my son." 

RELATED: Chesapeake Education Association votes to express "No Confidence" in school board

The Chesapeake teacher's union encourages CPS employees, like Lambert, to wear black in protest of the school board's decision. 

“I absolutely in solidarity with my fellow professional educators because there were a lot of difficult decisions made without our input, and we’re going to be the ones bearing the brunt of these decisions," said Lambert.

The CEA also announced that it encourages the city's public school employees to work to contract hours, as much as possible, and said they should "decline any additional duties and responsibilities."

“It’s a fine line to walk. I'll put it that way," said Lambert. "Because I want to respect their rights, but I'm also very cognizant of my own health and safety." 

The association originally indicated protests would take place Monday. However, Chesapeake Public Schools issued a virtual learning day, due to the threat of hazardous roads following winter weather. 

This also comes after a group of Chesapeake parents sued the Youngkin administration over his executive order to allow parents the option of sending their students to school without masks.  

The order conflicts with Senate Bill 1303, a Virginia law requiring schools to adhere to COVID-19 mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC.

Right now, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students and staff regardless of vaccination status.

RELATED: Miyares to fight lawsuit seeking to overturn Youngkin order making masks optional in school

Chesapeake Public Schools board member Christie New Craig expressed concerns on Facebook in response to the decision by the teacher's union.

“If any child is bullied, segregated, or discriminated upon for not wearing a mask in any classroom, please message me immediately!" New Craig posted Sunday.  

Lambert says bullying will not be tolerated. 

“The decisions of their parents are independent to us in that regard," she said. "We don’t begrudge our students. We want to see them in class. We want to see them grow and learn."  

Lambert asks parents to be understanding of the situation.  

“This week is going to be chaotic," said Lambert. "Please be patient with the teachers and the administration. We’re not the ones making these decisions. We’re just carrying them out." 

For list of all the schools against and for the executive order click here.

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