Halifax County Public Schools responded to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Executive Order Number Two regarding the wearing of masks in schools in an alert to parents on Tuesday.
The alert says county schools will keep “all current mitigation strategies in place, including wearing masks, when students return to school this week.”
Youngkin’s order had ended Public Health Emergency Order Dix, gave parents the option to opt out of any mask mandate at a school, and said parents did not have to provide reason for not allowing their child to wear a mask.
The order also states that the state Superintendent of Public Instruction would provide the school division with new guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19, while rescinding “the interim guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19 in Virginia schools. PreK-12”.
The guidelines “reinforce the importance of in-person learning and help divisions make informed decisions about masking and other mitigation measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.”
The HCPS alert said they would use the new guidelines and “work with state and local authorities to better understand what the executive order means for our schools.”
It also says they would let everyone know about their masks and mitigation strategies by Monday when Youngkin’s order goes into effect.
During his campaign, Youngkin has emphasized parental choice in schools and transparency, as well as the elimination of certain programs such as critical race theory.
Then, when Youngkin addressed the Joint Assembly, after his inauguration, he said: ‘My message to parents is this: you have a fundamental right, enshrined in law by this General Assembly, to make decisions regarding the education, upbringing and care of your child. . And we will protect and reaffirm that right. Hear me clearly when parents are empowered and engaged, a child’s life is improved.
He also said: “As we fight covid, it is his parents who should decide what health measures are taken for their children. That’s why I signed an executive order that allows parents to opt out of mask mandates in schools. It is a matter of individual freedom. Again, this body has passed a law that protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions about the upbringing, upbringing and care of their children.
His executive order eliminates Gov. Ralph Northam’s emergency public health order, which requires universal masking in the indoor environments of Virginia’s K-12 schools.
But that order reinforced a state law, which requires Virginia schools to adhere to mitigation strategies outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of July 28, CDC guidelines include universal masking for all students, teachers, and staff.
SB 1303 was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan General Assembly earlier this year.
Following Northam’s order, HCPS adopted its mask policy, which requires anyone who enters its building to wear one regardless of their vaccination status.
Students are permitted to remove their masks when eating, drinking, exercising, and in non-crowded outdoor spaces.
Mask-wearing has also been a subject of ongoing debate among Halifax County School Board members in the past and surfaced again at their last meeting.
At that meeting, ED-3 administrator Melissa Hicks praised the parents’ choice.
But others said they were following Northam’s mandate and said until the new governor changes the mandate, there is nothing they can do.
Another board member, ED-6 administrator Freddie Edmunds, also highlighted the number of COVID-19 cases in schools and warned everyone of the possible spike they could see. if they asked students to remove their masks.
As of Wednesday, a total of 551 cases of COVID-19 had been reported by HCPS employees or students since August, the majority of cases at Halifax County High School with 161 cases.
Additionally, from March 2020 through Jan. 8, there were 1,435 cases of COVID-19 cases among children in the Southside Health District, which includes Halifax County, reports the Virginia Department of Health.