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Anxiety over school mask order in Virginia growing for parents

Parents in Prince William County Public Schools hope the school district will continue to stick to the mask requirements.

MANASSAS, Va. — Many parents say they now feel more stressed about sending their children to school after an executive order was issued to remove mask mandates in classrooms and buses.  

Gov. Glenn Younkin vowed to use all available resources to maintain his order, which would allow parents the choice on whether to send their kids to school wearing masks, starting on Monday. Several school divisions including Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington Counties already announced sticking to their mask requirements despite the order. 

Prince William County Public Schools sent a similar message before the governor signed his order. Superintendent LaTanya McDade sent a letter to parents on Monday to remind them how safety measures including masks have not changed. 

"PWCS is evaluating both the order and anticipated VDOE guidance, along with local, state, and national legal requirements," the letter said. 

School board members are likely to discuss the legalities of the order at the meeting on Wednesday night. Chair Dr. Babur Lateef reemphasized to WUSA9 how mask requirements are still in place for next week. A PWCS spokesperson said mitigation guidance should be released no later than Friday for more clarification.  

Families fear parents who feel emboldened by the order will still send their kids to school without a mask. 

Michele Sanderlin has been waiting on specific guidelines with anxiety. She is hoping school leaders will keep the mask mandate even after their discussion. If parents get the choice, Sanderlin is considering removing her first grader from school and teaching him at home. 

"Our family has been a little bit on high anxiety," Sanderlin said. "My kids know they wear masks to keep other people safe. I'm worried about next week and my child getting sick."

Tracy Blake also disagrees with the order, but he feels more confident the school board will put safety and health over choice.

"I trust them to do the right thing," Blake said. "It's in the best interest of the health and safety of all the kids."

Legal experts say a bipartisan law passed in 2021 to require school systems to offer in-person classes while following the fullest extent of CDC guidelines supersedes the executive order. 

Thirteen parents in Chesapeake, Virginia have already filed a lawsuit against the governor and members of his administration claiming the order violates state law.

RELATED: Chesapeake parents sue Gov. Youngkin over lifting school mask mandate

RELATED: Mandate debate: Loudoun Co. Schools discuss next steps following governor's mask order

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