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Parents and teachers express gratitude, frustration over optional masks in Chesapeake schools

They are one of four school boards in Hampton Roads that elected to go along with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Four days after the Chesapeake School Board voted to remove their mask mandate in an emergency meeting, parents and teachers were able to address board members.

Some applauded the move, while others called it "utter nonsense."

They are one of four school boards in Hampton Roads that elected to go along with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order. Chesapeake joined Gloucester, Poquoson and Virginia Beach City Public Schools in voting to make masks optional.

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

"I would like to thank you for voting to make masks optional for our students and recognizing the importance of parental choice," said one of the 32 speakers.

One said parents know what is best for children, not teachers.

"It shouldn’t be political to let parents make decisions for the children."

One dad said his kids are thrilled.

"My children are excited to return to the school building tomorrow without wearing masks," he told the board.

There were a number of teachers and parents who said they were disappointed in the board, many of them wearing black in protest of the decision.

"Your child does not have the right to infect my child," said one mom.

Another echoed that sentiment.

"Parents are being told that their choice to not have their masked child in the same space as their unmasked children will not be honored. Where’s the choice?"

Parent Christine Thompson said it's framed as parental choice, but it's not.

"That’s not parental choice. With all due respect, that is utter nonsense."

During the meeting, Superintendent Jared Cotton reminded everyone that masks are still required in certain areas, like school buses, and that teachers and visitors still have to wear masks.

He also said documentation is not required to send your child to school without a mask.

Bullying based on whether a student is masked or not, he reiterated, will not be tolerated.

"We want to be clear that we will not be separating students in the classroom or lining students up to walk in the hallway based on who is wearing a mask," he told the crowd.

Cotton also says they've received requests to move children back to virtual learning after they voted. However, he says it's too late to switch. 

He told his fellow board members that their COVID-19 policies can change at any time based on the current data.

This meeting comes after a group of Chesapeake parents sued Youngkin's administration over his new executive order, which allows parents the option of sending their students to school without a mask on.

RELATED: Chesapeake parents sue Gov. Youngkin over optional-mask executive order. Here's what they and their attorney have to say.

Chesapeake Education Association (CEA) has also voted to express "No Confidence" in the city's school board.  

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

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."

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