Virginia Beach and Chesapeake school boards vote to make masks optional for students
- Written by Paul Bibeau
- Category: Local News
- Published: 21 January 2022
The Chesapeake School Board voted 7-1 this week to give parents the option on whether to mask their children in schools. Virginia Beach voted to make masks optional as well in a 9-2 decision.
Portsmouth and Norfolk both voted to keep the mandate in place.
The decisions follow Gov. Glenn Youngkin's executive order rescinding mask mandates inside schools.
Thirteen parents from Chesapeake filed suit in the state’s Supreme Court, arguing the order conflicted with existing state law.
The lawyer for the Chesapeake school board said it was unclear whether or not the governor's order would withstand the challenge.
"The governor has the power to execute executive orders on any number of topics," Robert Barry told the school board at this week's meeting. "I believe he does not have the authority to promulgate an executive order that is contrary to an existing statute and certainly not one that is contrary to the Virginia Constitution."
Barry added that he would probably be asked to argue on behalf of the school board in the suit.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares wrote on Twitter Thursday that he filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
"With our filing," Miyares tweeted, "we again affirm that parents matter."
In Virginia Beach, School Board Member Jessica Owens expressed concern.
"I hope that this decision isn’t the decision that ends us up with not enough staff to continue," she said before voting against the motion.
"I hope it works, and I’m apologizing in advance for my vote to my teacher friends," added member Kimberly Melnyk, who voted in favor.
Virginia Beach voted for a proposal that asked parents to notify the school system if they were sending their children to school without masks. It was unclear how that notification system would work. Virginia Beach Superintendent Aaron Spence said Friday morning the school system was working on the logistics.
Youngkin's order goes into effect Monday.
NOTE: Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Portsmouth public schools are members of HRETA, which holds the license for WHRO Public Media.