Chesapeake Public Schools is one of four school divisions in Hampton Roads making masks optional, as Governor Youngkin’s executive order takes effect Jan. 24.
CHESAPEAKE, Va. — On Monday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order goes into effect requiring all Virginia school systems to make mask-wearing for their students optional.
As of this week, most school systems in Hampton Roads have decided to continue requiring students and teachers to wear masks while at school.
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Four school divisions in the area chose to follow the governor’s order: Gloucester County Public Schools, Poquoson City Public Schools, Virginia Beach City Public Schools and Chesapeake Public Schools.
On Friday, Youngkin released COVID-19 mitigation strategies for K-12 schools and updated guidance to accompany the Executive Order in coordination with the Virginia Department of Health.
“This guidance provides more detail for local health and school officials and parents to inform their decision-making about COVID-19,” the guidelines read. “The benefit of mitigation efforts must always be weighed against the cost to the overall well-being of children.”
For a full copy of the guidelines, click here.
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In Chesapeake, some teachers are raising concerns about the changes.
The Chesapeake Education Association upheld a vote of no confidence in the school board’s decision to make masks optional.
“Sometimes, as much as it hurts, you have to prove a point,” said Chesapeake Public Schools teacher and parent Amanda Lambert.
Lambert told 13NewsNow that she is concerned about the new mask rules.
“Many of my students are immunocompromised. Many of my peers are immunocompromised,” he said. “I have a pre-existing health condition. So I myself have to be careful, so I’m careful with myself and my son.”
RELATED: Chesapeake Education Association votes to express “No Confidence” in school board
The Chesapeake Teachers Union encourages CPS employees, like Lambert, to wear black in protest of the school board’s decision.
“I absolutely sympathize with my fellow professional educators because so many tough decisions were made without our input, and we will be the ones who bear the brunt of these decisions,” Lambert said.
The CEA also announced that it encourages employees of the city’s public schools to work for contracted hours, as much as possible, and said they should “refuse any additional obligation and responsibility.”
“It is a very fine line to walk. I’ll put it that way,” Lambert said. “Because I want to respect their rights, but I’m also very conscious of my own health and safety.”
The association originally indicated that the protests would take place on Monday. However, Chesapeake Public Schools issued a virtual learning day due to the threat of dangerous roads after winter weather.
This also comes after a group of Chesapeake parents sued the Youngkin administration over its executive order to allow parents the option of sending their students to school without masks.
The order conflicts with Senate Bill 1303, a Virginia law that requires schools to adhere to CDC-recommended COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
At this time, the CDC recommends the universal use of masks indoors by all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status.
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Chesapeake Public Schools board member Christie New Craig expressed concern on Facebook in response to the teachers’ union decision.
“If any child is bullied, segregated or discriminated against for not wearing a mask in any classroom please message me immediately!” New Craig posted on Sunday.
Lambert says bullying will not be tolerated.
“Their parents’ decisions are independent of us in that sense,” he said. “We do not envy our students. We want to see you in class. We want to see them grow and learn.”
Lambert asks the parents to be understanding of the situation.
“This week is going to be chaotic,” Lambert said. “Be patient with teachers and administration. We are not the ones making these decisions. We’re just carrying them out.”
For a list of all schools against and for the executive order, click here.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism