CHESAPEAKE, Va. — UPDATE: Chesapeake Public Schools will follow a new Public Health Order issued by the State Health Commissioner that requires masks indoors at K-12 schools for anyone 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status.
Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton issued the following statement:
As you may be aware, the Governor recently announced that a new Public Health Order has been issued by the State Health Commissioner.
This order requires individuals aged 2 and older to wear masks indoors in public and private K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status. This order became effective today, August 12, 2021, and will remain in force until CDC guidance changes or the order is rescinded. It is important to note that this new order does not apply outdoors or when students are participating in physical education classes.
Masking has become a sensitive issue for many over the past few months. While health officials and organizations continue to promote masks as one of the most effective mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many families believe the decision to have their child wear a mask is one that should be made solely by a parent or guardian. As a result, the School Board made the decision back in June to make mask-wearing optional in the absence of any governmental mandates.
In accordance with today’s governmental mandate, Chesapeake Public Schools will require students, staff, and visitors to wear a mask when indoors at all schools, effective immediately. Alternatives and reasonable accommodations will be considered for anyone who is unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition, disability, or for religious reasons. More information will be provided about this process at a later date.
As a reminder, all students are still required to wear a mask when riding the school bus.
I recognize that ever-changing guidelines and now reinstatement of the masking requirement have caused disagreement for quite a number of families, especially now as we are all working to plan for the upcoming school year. As always, I appreciate your understanding as we continue to navigate this recent mandate, and we will be sure to update our CPS families as soon as we finalize our plans for the fall.
Jared Cotton, Ed. D.
Original story from August 9:
On Monday, Chesapeake Public Schools said masks will remain optional for the upcoming school year.
That keeps with the school board's initial decision from June. However, it goes against Gov. Ralph Northam's statement last week that all school divisions must follow CDC mitigation strategies, which includes masks in schools.
During the meeting, 54 people faced the school board, some begging its members to change their minds.
Among those who spoke was a rising 7th grader.
"I find it disgusting that you are willing to put kids in danger just so you don’t have to wear a little piece of fabric on your face."
Others who faced the board want to keep the policy the same.
"I encourage you to lead the way by bolding standing fast in your beliefs and not buckling to fear," one parent said.
Aspen Nolette, a parent of three, agreed.
"Our children are healthy, our children are safe and have parents who know what's best for them."
This comes after Northam announced all Virginia schools must follow CDC guidance on masks.
He said this requirement comes from a bill that was passed in March.
"That law was passed by a strong bipartisan vote of the legislature, and I expect school divisions to follow it. If they choose not to follow it, they should have a frank discussion with their legal counsel," said Northam.
Two people pled with the board to follow that law.
"Please don’t waste my tax dollars in court if you choose to defy this state law," said Lynn Davidson.
Samantha Lester echoed that sentiment.
"I would hate to see our school budget wasted on litigation if Chesapeake public schools defies this law and not require masks in schools."
In the end, the board decided to keep their policy the same.
"While health officials and organizations continue to promote masks as one of the most effective mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many parents believe the decision to have their child wear a mask is one that should be made solely by a parent or guardian," said Superintendent Jared Cotton. "Therefore in keeping with the boards decision, when we return in the fall, masks will be strongly recommended for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status."
They said they will continue to coordinate with the Virginia Department of Health for vaccine clinics before the start of the school year for students 12 and older.
So far, the Hampton, Newport News and Williamsburg/James City County School Divisions announced universal masking. A spokesperson for Portsmouth Public Schools says the division will follow the same ruling.
York County also said masks will be optional.
Plans for school divisions in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Suffolk still weren't announced as of Monday.