The Arlington County, Virginia, school system says it plans to follow a new state law that enables parents to choose whether to have their kids wear masks in school.
In a presentation posted ahead of Thursday’s school board meeting, the school system said it will require masks until March 1, the deadline for schools to comply with the new law.
In the presentation, the county wrote that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masking in K-12 settings, but that the newly signed Senate bill 739 “allows for parents to elect for their child to opt out of wearing a mask at school beginning March 1.”
Students will still be required to wear a mask on buses of a federal mask requirement on public transit, the school system said. It said as of Feb. 14, the county is experiencing high coronavirus community transmission as defined by the CDC.
The school system also said it’s urging students and staff to continue opting in for weekly school testing.
During the board meeting, board members also voted to pause the school system’s virtual learning program for next school year. Superintendent Francisco Duran said there are concerns that the current program is not offering the full range of academic and socio-emotional services for students that school officials hoped.
School board member David Priddy agreed, calling the current structure for virtual learning is “not a sustainable program with a concrete foundation that will remain for years to come.”
In a presentation, Chief of School Support Kimberley Graves said time is needed to engage in planning and program development to propose a comprehensive framework for a future virtual learning option program.
“I cannot responsibly continue this program and expect it to magically work without putting the time and the care to do it right,” school board member Cristina Diaz-Torres said before her vote. “I’m optimistic that we can with the time, and with the care, with everyone’s engagement here, we are going to come up with something that is exceptional.”
Even with the pause, however, student with medical exemptions will still be able to receive virtual instruction learning services.
Virginia school systems shifting, reviewing mask guidelines
Other Northern Virginia school systems are still trying to determine how to move forward with mitigation strategies in schools.
After a judge’s ruling banned Loudoun County Public Schools from enforcing its mask mandate, masks became optional in schools on Thursday. The school system initially announced plans to lift its mask requirement Feb. 22.
Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park schools have also ended their mask mandates, InsideNova reported. A Prince William County spokeswoman didn’t respond to WTOP’s request for comment, but Superintendent LaTanya McDade said in a memo to families that an update is planned for Friday.
Fairfax County Public Schools said Wednesday it was reviewing the law, and school board members convened for a closed session Thursday afternoon. It’s unclear when an announcement will follow.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed the legislation, SB739, on Wednesday afternoon, saying at a signing ceremony in Richmond that lawmakers are “reaffirming the rights that we know all parents have.” It enables parents to “elect for [their] child to not wear a mask while on school property,” regardless of guidance from local school boards or state agencies.
WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this story.
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