Parents of Fairfax Co. school children weigh in on Gov. Youngkin lifting mask mandate

Parents of children at Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) are weighing in on Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order lifting the mask mandate at schools.

“It came as a shock because it’s a public health emergency right now with the surge,” said Ang Golder, a parent of an FCPS elementary school student.

With COVID cases still high in Northern Virginia, Golder helped organize a petition that was delivered to the governor’s office on Friday asking that the mask mandate remain in place. She said more than 1,800 FCPS parents have signed it.

Another concern is that, without the mandate in place, outbreaks among staff would force students back to virtual learning.

Speaking against mask requirements, Eric Hooks, a father of two elementary age FCPS students, said the governor’s decision to lift the mandate is long overdue.

“I think it’s really important for them to get used to not wearing masks all the time,” Hooks said. “Especially when they are so young and have been wearing them for such a large portion of their young lives.”

He said he plans on following the governor’s updated guidance that parents should listen to principals until the Supreme Court of Virginia issues its ruling on the executive order.

But Hooks said he’s not happy about it.

“I have every right to take whatever precaution I need to protect my children’s health. In my estimation, the needs of my children are to be unmasked in school.”

Virginia’s largest school system said Friday it will continue to require masks when classes resume Tuesday, despite Gov. Youngkin’s executive order that would remove school mask requirements across the state.

In a letter to families, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said the school system requires “everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask inside our buildings and on our school buses, except when alone in a room.”

The current mask requirement covers staff, students and visitors.

The school system will be hosting a town hall for parents on the governor’s executive order on Monday, Jan. 24 from 7-8 p.m.

Many Northern Virginia counties, including Loudoun, Stafford and Prince William, as well as Arlington Schools have opted to maintain their current mask practices, which is based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC recommends universal indoor masking for students 2 and older, staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools, independent of an individual’s vaccination status.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

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