ALEXANDRIA, VA — As Gov. Glenn Youngkin's executive order giving a choice for mask wearing in schools takes effect Monday, the Alexandria School Board reaffirmed its school mask mandate and other COVID-19 measures.
The Alexandria School Board unanimously voted Thursday to reaffirm the mitigation measures in place based on CDC recommendations. That includes a mask requirement in Alexandria City Public Schools buildings and buses that had been first approved by the School Board in 2020. All individuals are expected to wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth in ACPS facilities, schools and buses, regardless of vaccination status. Anyone who doesn't have one will be given one by the school.
Other mitigation measures at ACPS include the option of weekly screening testing for students and staff, daily testing for athletes, ventilation measures, health screenings and more.
A letter to families from Superintendent Gregory Hutchings cited the Virginia Constitution granting authority of school boards to operate and supervise schools in their division. Hutchings said the mitigation measures help ACPS follow 2021 Virginia General Assembly legislation that requires school divisions offer in-person learning. The law states school divisions should follow CDC-recommended mitigation strategies "to the maximum extent practicable."
"We look forward to the day when we no longer need masks to protect our health and safety," Hutchings wrote. "However, we will continue to follow Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and school board policy for mitigation measures."
Youngkin's executive order has an effective date of Monday, Jan. 24. The order says parents have the choice on whether their student wears a mask at school, citing a statement in Virginia code that parents have the right to make decisions in their child's education.
According to a presentation given to the School Board Thursday, Alexandria continues to see a high level of COVID-19 transmission. As of Jan. 19, Alexandria had 2,130 new cases in the last week and a rate of 1,296 cases per 100,000 people in the last week.
ACPS is also participating in the Virginia Department of Health's test-to-stay pilot program to help limit quarantines and absences after a COVID-19 exposure. The pilot is in the planning phase and will be conducted at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, James K. Polk Elementary School and the Alexandria City High School Satellite Program.
As reported by ALX Now, the school district is receiving KN95 masks for students and staff.