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Virginia bill ending school mask mandates passes House, Gov. Youngkin says he'll sign

Youngkin has already indicated he will add an emergency clause to make the bill effective immediately.

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill ending mask mandates in public schools Monday. The legislation is now headed to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk.

Senate Bill 739 passed the Republican-controlled House on a party-line vote and will make masking optional in all Virginia public K-12 schools. Youngkin has already indicated he will add an emergency clause to make the bill effective immediately, according to a House spokesperson. 

“I am pleased that there is widespread and bipartisan support in Virginia for a parental opt-out of mask mandates in schools," Youngkin said Monday after the bill passed. "The General Assembly took a significant step for parents and children. After passing both chambers of the General Assembly, SB 739 will give parents a choice regarding their child's health, education, upbringing, and care."

The General Assembly plans to consider any recommendations later this week, which Youngkin said Monday evening could go back to the House and Senate as early as Tuesday.

“We’ll work on that this evening and tomorrow morning and send it back to the General Assembly tomorrow morning with an emergency clause," Youngkin said. "And then the House and the Senate have to do their thing and send it back to me so I’m hoping we get that done this week.”

Several Republican leaders shared the governor's enthusiasm for the bill. 

RELATED: Stafford County Public Schools board votes to remove masks for students, staff

“What our children have had to endure over the last two years will impact them for years to come,” Speaker Todd Gilbert, (R-Shenandoah) stated via press release. “It’s time we end the insanity and let our kids be kids again. Virginia is behind the curve for states ending masking mandates and I’m proud of the legislature for getting this done quickly. Our kids can’t wait.”

RELATED: Fairfax County Public Schools announce what it will take to roll back masks, other COVID safety measures

Parents in northern Virginia have also shared their excitement, and hesitancy with the bill's passage and its impending signage.

“This mask issue has been a wedge, we haven’t had a lot of control, we haven’t had a lot of say and with this new legislation, it finally feels like parents are empowered to have some input on their children’s education and how they're treated in schools,” FCPS parent Christy Hudson said.

“I was frustrated. I think it should be up to schools, local schools, I think that schools know what’s best and are doing what’s best for their communities as they have for the past two years," Liz Kelley, an FCPS parent said.

However, on Friday, educators from across the Commonwealth testified against the bill.

Teachers who spoke during Friday's testimony portion of the bill in Richmond warned that the bill's passage would lead to enough resignations to put the education system at a crisis level.

RELATED: Loudoun County School Board meeting brought to a halt by families opposing the mask mandate

"I don't think this administration is prepared to attract, train and retain the number of teachers once resignations come in. This is going to be at a crisis level," a science teacher from Waynesboro said to the House committee on Friday.

Youngkin said after the bill's initial passage in the Senate Wednesday that parents are now empowered to decide whether their children should wear a mask. He also tweeted that it's time to put kids first and get back to normal.

RELATED: As a Virginia bill to make masks optional in schools gets closer to the governor's desk, teachers are sounding the alarm

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