VA Governor Lifts School Mask Mandate


Al Drago/Bloomberg

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signs executive orders in the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, on Jan 15, 2022.

Effective on Monday, January 24, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin released an executive order allowing parents of children to opt out of the mask mandates subjected by schools. The Governor stated that the mask mandate in schools has been ineffective and impractical because they failed to adhere with the rapidly changing scientific information provided by the CDC.

Youngkin said that incorrect and prolonged mask use by children provided little to no health benefit due to increased ineffectiveness over the school day. As well, mask use obstructed the communication and language development between the children and teachers and posed a greater risk to the mental health of students.

Governor Youngkin plans to combat the increased exposure from the removal of masks by ordering school districts to employ their available resources toward improving, repairing, and upgrading their school facilities.

Newport News Public Schools recently released a statement regarding Youngkin’s executive order, stating that while they are converting to a mask-optional learning environment, students are encouraged to wear masks and practice COVID preventative measures. However, teachers are still required to wear masks while in the school building. 

In an internet poll conducted via Instagram, Newport News Public Schools students had the opportunity to voice their opinion on mask use in schools. They were asked, “Do you believe students should be required to wear masks in school?” Out of the 114 students who responded, 64% felt that masks should be worn at all times when not eating or drinking. 

Alli Strickhouser, a junior at Menchville High School, said, “masks should be worn because it keeps them safe from further harm. With the new variant, COVID transmission is high and we shouldn’t be taking off masks and further impairing the safety of other students.”

Menchville senior Dwight Beane said, “Students and faculty alike should have the option to not wear a mask…people know the risks and if they are willing to take it, let them.”

Some students were in between about mask requirements such as Haneen Taha, a Menchville junior who said, “it depends on a lot of things like vaccination status and if someone has health problems.”

The second question said “Do you think teachers should have the option to wear masks during instruction?” Out of the 113 students who replied, 65% said that teachers should be given the choice to not wear a mask.

Alex Dierkens, a Menchville junior, said, “Teachers should be able to take off their masks when they’re social distancing because it is harder to hear them with masks on. But they should wear their masks when they’re talking one on one with students.”

Skylar Thompson, a junior at Warwick High School said, “Masks have been proven to help limit the spread of COVID. With this in mind, masks should be required for students and teachers to ensure the safety of students and staff.”

While opinions on the matter differ, one thing is certain: the health and welfare of Newport News Public School students and faculty must be maintained in order to ensure a safe learning environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.