Breaking News
More () »

No mask mandate for Fauquier schools, despite county's 'high' COVID transmission rate

The Virginia school district is bucking a statewide trend, by reopening classrooms Wednesday without a mask mandate.

WASHINGTON — At a raucous school board meeting Monday night, the Fauquier County School Board decided to keep masks optional for students, faculty and staff when schools reopen Wednesday. A large crowd cheered the decision, despite the uptick in cases that put the rural Northern Virginia County in the CDC's red zone for a high level of community transmission of COVID.

Many other Virginia school districts have already announced masks will be mandatory in schools and buses, and Gov. Ralph Northam threatened to sue school districts that fail to require masking.

Fauquier school policy outlined in a slide presentation, "strongly recommends that students under 12 wear face masks in school and on buses." It also says masks may be mandated if the rate of new positive cases among students or staff exceeds 1% or if more than 10% of the students or staff are absent because of illness or quarantines.

In the policy document, the decision on switching to mandatory masking had been left to the division superintendent, but during the meeting, the board decided the final ruling should be up to board members.

Board member Duke Bland was the sole voice pushing for mandatory masking.

 “We very rapidly moved from moderate to substantial to high,” he said, pointing to CDC data on the spread of COVID among children. “As of a week ago, 192 children with COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals each and every day,...46% had no preexisting conditions, and 416 ages 0 to 18 have died,” he said.

Board chairman Donna Grove pushed to make masking voluntary. 

"It is well documented that there are downsides to mask-wearing – especially for young children," she said to a wave of applause, according to the Fauquier Times. "Young children need to see facial expressions; they need to see the teacher forming words; they need to see smiles."

With three children in Fauquier schools, parent Jennifer Messler was pushing for a mask mandate. Unfortunately for kids, "it's monkey see, monkey do," she said. She worries that if her children see other kids maskless, they'll pull theirs off too. 

Neighboring Spotsylvania County just voted to mandate masks, reversing its July decision to give parents a chance to opt their student out of the mask mandate.

RELATED: Spotsylvania County Public Schools issues mask mandate for upcoming school year

Here is what other Virginia jurisdictions are doing.

Arlington Public Schools (APS)

Although classroom capacities will return to pre-pandemic levels, APS will continue to mandate that all staff, students and visitors wear masks while inside buildings and school busses, as stated on the district's website. However, students with recess will no longer be required to wear face coverings while outdoors.

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS)

As of August 3, ACPS will still require all staff, students and visitors to wear face coverings while inside buildings or on school busses, regardless of vaccination status. 

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS)

FCPS announced their decision on July 28, one day after the CDC recommended masks be worn indoors at all schools

"To ensure our schools stay open and safe this school year, FCPS will start the school year with universal masking. Masks will be worn at all times by both staff and students indoors and on school buses, but are not required when eating or when outside during recess, PE, or other activities. Universal masking is a critical factor in ensuring all students can return to our buildings, especially when social distancing is not possible and not all our students are eligible yet for vaccinations. We will be regularly reviewing our masking practices in line with updates to national, state and local health recommendations."

Prince William County Public Schools (PWCPS)

Prince William County Public Schools announced on August 2 that all students, teachers, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. 

Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS)

LCPS will require all students and staff to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler announced Aug. 2 in a letter sent out to the school community.

RELATED: Find out what your school district is doing about masks this upcoming semester

WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.

Download the WUSA9 app to get breaking news, weather and important stories at your fingertips.

Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news.
Sign up for the Capitol Breach email newsletter, delivering the latest breaking news and a roundup of the investigation into the Capitol Riots on Jan. 6, 2021.

Before You Leave, Check This Out