Stafford Schools Keep Mask Mandate Despite Governor's Order

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STAFFORD COUNTY, VA — Masks will continue to be required in Stafford County Public Schools, Superintendent Thomas Taylor announced on Thursday.

The Stafford County School Board voted in favor of keeping their mask mandate through Aug. 1, despite an executive order from Governor Glenn Youngkin that would make masks optional in schools beginning on Monday.

The mask executive order was one of 11 Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed on his first day in office Saturday. The order states parents have the choice on whether their child should wear a mask for the duration of the school day. The order is effective Monday, Jan. 24 unless rescinded or amended by another order.

Ahead of the 2021-2022 school year, former Gov. Ralph Northam issued a public health order with Virginia Health Commissioner Norman Oliver requiring universal masking in K-12 schools. This aligned with a law passed by the General Assembly that requires school districts to offer in-person learning and "to the maximum extent practicable" follow COVID-19 mitigation strategies from the CDC. The bill expires Aug. 1, 2022.

The current CDC guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools calls for universal indoor masking for anyone 2 and older regardless of vaccination status.

In a letter published after the school board vote on Thursday, Superintendent Taylor noted that though parents can apply for exemptions, all students and visitors at schools are expected to comply with the mandate.

"We will continue to remind students to wear masks as expected," Taylor wrote. "Students who repeatedly elect not to wear masks may be subject to disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct, as has been the practice since the beginning of the mask mandate."

Taylor also noted that the governor's executive order is currently being challenged in Virginia Supreme Court. If the order is upheld in court, the school board will reconvene again to assess the mask mandate.

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This article originally appeared on the Fredericksburg Patch

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