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Hampton Roads school division leaders respond to Gov. Youngkin's new, optional mask order

While the order takes effect next Monday, officials from several school divisions across Hampton Roads said they are awaiting more guidance from the state.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Governor Glenn Youngkin hit the ground running this weekend. He signed dozens of executive actions, including one that will end the mask mandate in K through 12 schools.

“We wrote the order specifically to give all of the school systems basically eight days to get ready, to listen to parents,” Youngkin said.

While the order takes effect Monday, January 24, officials from several school divisions across Hampton Roads said they are awaiting more guidance from the state.

A letter from Virginia Beach City Public Schools leaders to parents states the mask rules will remain in place this week.

“We will keep you informed as to how masking for VBCPS may change as soon as we have more information on the new executive order,” the letter read.

“As a parent, I'm just flabbergasted that this would be something that our school system would consider,” said Virginia Beach parent Allison Verbanic.

Verbanic said she’s worried about sending her daughter to school if masks are optional.

“Masks are the only mitigation strategy VBCPS really has left,” Verbanic said. “We are not six feet apart. We are barely even three feet, sometimes not even that.”

But many parents support Youngkin’s order. Lindsey Bohon said she homeschools three of her kids because of the previous mask requirement.

“Now we have a governor who cares and is going to stick by the code of Virginia and allow parents to choose,” Bohon said.

Leaders in three school divisions in Northern Virginia said they are sticking with the universal mask requirement. Youngkin says that won’t fly.

“We will use every resource within the governor’s authority to explore what we can do and will do to make sure that a parent's right is protected,” Youngkin said.

He’s asking all school divisions to prepare for Monday.

“We granted parents the option of deciding if their child will wear a mask or not and we are going to protect that right,” Youngkin said.

Besides hearing from school leaders in Virginia Beach, 13News Now also heard from school leaders in Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, and York County. 

Leaders in all those school divisions say they are keeping masks in place this week and will notify parents of any changes moving forward.

Several of the divisions said they will provide further guidance for parents by the end of the week.