Hundreds of Virginia Schools Rebel Against Glenn Youngkin, Refuse To Lift Mask Mandate

School districts responsible for hundreds of Virginia schools have indicated they will continue with mask mandates despite a new executive order from Governor Glenn Youngkin.

Youngkin, a Republican, issued an order on Saturday that effectively allows parents to exempt their children from mask requirements imposed by schools, one of his first acts as governor.

Several school districts in the state said they would continue to impose mask requirements on students and staff despite Youngkin's order, which is set to take effect from January 24.

Youngkin's executive order states, in part: "The parents of any child enrolled in a elementary or secondary school or a school based early childcare and educational program may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child's school or educational program."

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is the largest school district in Virginia and one of the largest in the U.S., overseeing 198 schools.

Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand said in a letter to the school community: "FCPS continues to require universal mask wearing in alignment with guidance. Our layered prevention strategies have proven effective in keeping transmission rates low in our schools."

Brabrand was referring to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which currently recommends that all children over the age of 2 wear masks at school in indoor settings.

Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS), which is composed of 72 schools and program centers, also said it would continue to require mask wearing.

School Board Chairwoman Marcie Shea wrote that HCPS takes the "responsibility to support in-person teaching and learning very seriously."

"Masks, as part of layered mitigation strategies, are currently necessary to accomplish this," she wrote. "My board colleagues and I will always consider the latest health guidance and data to make decisions in the best interest of the Henrico community."

Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. sent a letter to families on Sunday saying that the district would keep its mask requirement in place as well as provide KN95 masks. The school district oversees 25 schools and programs.

Arlington Public Schools, responsible for 41 schools and programs, also announced it would maintain the mask requirements.

"Arlington Public Schools will continue to require all staff and students to wear masks inside on school grounds and on buses, as part of our layered approach to safety," the district said. "Universal mask use has proven effective in keeping COVID-19 transmission rates low in our schools and ensuring schools remain safe and open.

"Arlington Public Schools implemented our mask requirement this school year prior to Governor Northam's K-12 mask mandate, and we will continue to make decisions that prioritize the health, safety and wellbeing of our students and staff, following the guidance of local and national health professionals."

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras tweeted on Saturday that his district "will maintain its 100 percent mask mandate for students, staff, and visitors."

Kamras' school district is responsible for 53 schools and centers.

Youngkin was asked about Arlington Public Schools' decision on Saturday and told WTOP: "I hope they will listen to parents because we will use every resource within the governor's authority to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure parents' rights are protected."

Newsweek has asked Youngkin's office for comment.

Glenn Youngkin on the Campaign Trail
Then Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during a “Parents Matter GOTV Rally” October 13, 2021 in Culpeper, Virginia. Youngkin signed an executive order aimed at school mask mandates on his first day in office. Alex Wong/Getty Images