ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Some northern Virginia schools are pushing back against Gov. Glenn Youngkin's executive order lifting the mask mandate in schools, prompting mixed reactions from families and teachers.
The order is slated to take effect on Monday, Jan. 24.
So far, Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax County Public Schools have said they will maintain their mask mandates.
Loudoun County Public Schools said they will keep masks until the order takes effect and will offer more guidance later in the week.
The big question families are now raising is whether or not the order is legal. Last year, the Virginia General Assembly passed a bipartisan law requiring schools to offer in-person classes five days a week, while following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, which includes masking.
Now, families and law professors alike are anticipating lawsuits challenging the order and the law.
In the meantime, families are trying to figure out how to handle school policies and the executive order.
“I think the thing that we feel has kept the ability for us to send our son to school has been the masks, because they provided both a comfort level for parents, a lot of the students themselves and probably most importantly, the staff," Eric Johnson said.
He and his wife, Shivani Chandra, have a third grader who attends Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS).
ACPS is one of the districts opting out of accepting the order.
“I'm obviously appalled by his executive order," FCPS senior, Matthew Savage said. "I currently have COVID. Luckily, I don't have many symptoms, because I'm triple vaxxed. But, I likely got it from school.”
Fairfax County Public Schools has also said masks are staying.
Some FCPS parents, however, are excited to ditch them, like David Rich. He currently has three kids in the school system, and he said he's letting his high schooler go maskless when the order takes effect next week.
“He's ready to fight. He will be there armed with the executive order and official signed memo from his parents, his legal guardian stating that we have elected in accordance with the executive order to not have our kids be subjected to the mask mandate," Rich said. "And we'll see what the school does.”
David Walrod, on the other hand, is straddling two policies.
He's a teacher at FCPS and was recently elected as the next president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, but his daughter goes to Stafford County Public Schools.
Stafford has acknowledged an upcoming policy shift when the order starts.
“With the rise of the omicron variant, I think it's very irresponsible," Walrod said. "What we are seeing is that this variant is highly contagious; it's moving very quickly through the population.”
The big question remains how schools will handle enforcement starting next week.
In Loudoun County, some families will be holding a rally at 4 p.m. Tuesday in support of maintaining the mask mandate before the school board meets to decide whether or not they'll continue enforcing it when the executive order takes effect.