Masks now optional in Prince William Co. schools; Fairfax, Arlington mandates end March 1

Students in Virginia’s Prince William County Public Schools now have the option of whether to wear a mask, as of Tuesday morning.

In a letter to the community last week, Superintendent LaTanya McDade said masks would no longer be required for students effective Feb. 22.

The announcement came days after Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed SB739, which enables parents to choose whether to send their kids to school wearing masks. The law gives school systems until March 1 to comply.

Fairfax and Arlington Public Schools announced plans to extend their mask requirements until the March 1 deadline. Loudoun County announced hours after Youngkin signed the bill that it would lift its mask mandate Feb. 22. However, a ruling by Circuit Court Judge James Fisher immediately barred the county’s public school system from enforcing its mask mandate.

“Despite our individual personal beliefs, be it for or against masking, as state and federal laws and guidance evolve, we must evolve with them, and we are obligated to adhere to them,” McDade wrote. ” … we recognize that these changes are welcomed by some, and cause uncertainty for others. The health, safety and well-being of our students and staff, and the continuity of in-person instruction, remain our highest priorities.”

Prince William County school employees are still required to wear masks under a state labor law that mandates employees wear masks in times of high and substantial community transmission as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, McDade wrote.

In all jurisdictions, students and adults riding on school buses are still required to wear masks while on the bus because of a federal transportation law.

School Board Chairman Babur Lateef last month said the school system needed to consider an “off ramp” for masking in schools.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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