Fairfax Co. school officials say students without masks to be excluded from in-person learning

As Fairfax County public school students return to classes Tuesday following an extra-long weekend, school officials have outlined a plan to enforce the policy of mask-wearing in schools.

Despite Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order giving parents the right to decide whether their student wears a mask in school, school officials said mask-wearing in schools will be enforced.

In a Monday evening Zoom session for the community, officials said that any student without a religious or medical exemption not wearing a mask in school will first be reminded of the requirement.

If the student continues to refuse, school services personnel, including counselors, will be called in to stress to the student the school policy of universal masking. If that effort fails to persuade the student to mask up, parents will be contacted to direct the student to comply. If the student still refuses, school official said the student will be excluded from in-person learning.

“We all seek a moment when we can go to creating mask-optional conditions. But now is not the time, at the greatest surge we ever had in the pandemic. Now is the time to stay the course,” Fairfax County schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand said.

Brabrand also reminded the community that Fairfax County is among the school districts that filed a lawsuit Monday challenging Youngkin’s executive order.

“In the end, we will respect the legal process, and we are confident that we have a strong legal case,” Brabrand said.

Parents taking part in the Zoom staked out both sides of the dispute.

“This is going farther than what it needs to be, as far this mandate for masks. You’re taking our kids’ right to choose and I don’t feel that’s right,” parent Nestor Lopez said.

“I have a child in the school system, and I’ve been really worried about her going into the schools without universal masking, so I really, really appreciate that you are staying the course,” Joan Goldfarb said.

In a message to the school community last Friday, Brabrand said not everyone will agree with the school system’s course of action and hopes that the community will support each other and work together “to find the right time for us to begin to remove some of our layered prevention strategies, but this is not the time.”

Citing continued high transmission rates, he said keeping the mask regulation is crucial in keeping schools safe for all children and staff.

“We believe strongly in a caring culture, respecting and understanding each other and how we can grow and thrive together in our school community,” Brabrand said.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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