NORFOLK, Va. — School systems across Hampton Roads have struggled with how to respond to Governor Glenn Youngkin's executive order requiring all school systems in Virginia to make mask-wearing for their students optional.
Most cited a need to seek further guidance regarding whether or not the governor's order supersedes the state law passed last year which requires schools to adhere to CDC guidelines.
Nevertheless, the majority of school systems have decided to continue requiring students and teachers to wear masks while in school. They've indicated they believe they are either within their rights to continue requiring masks, or are otherwise following the law as their legal advisors interpret it.
In a story published by the Associated Press on Friday, Youngkin said he was confident the Virginia Supreme Court would rule “in the favor of parents.”
“In the meantime, I urge all parents to listen to their principal, and trust the legal process,” he said.
Here is a compilation of policies on individual school systems' decisions as of January 21:
Chesapeake: Will make mask-wearing optional
Gloucester: Will make mask-wearing optional for teachers and students
Hampton: Will continue to require masks
Isle of Wight County: Will continue to require masks
Newport News: Will continue to require masks
Norfolk: Will continue to require masks
Portsmouth: Will continue to require masks
Poquoson: Will make mask-wearing optional
Suffolk: Will continue to require masks
Virginia Beach: Will allow parents to "opt-out" of having their children wear masks
Williamsburg/James City County: Will continue to require masks
York County: Will continue to require masks
Youngkin's Executive Order 2 says parents can decide if their children are subject to mask mandates within school or educational programs. However, 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.
Youngkin's order is set to take effect on Jan. 24.