Virginia school districts acted quickly to remind their staffers and students about mask policies shortly after newly sworn-in Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s order to lift the mandate, prompting a response by the governor.
Richmond, Alexandria, Fairfax and Arlington counties have all said their mask policies remain in effect following Youngkin’s executive order.
Arlington County said in a Saturday statement that its 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.”
Youngkin slammed Arlington Public Schools over the response.
“The fact that that tweet came out from Arlington County within minutes of my Executive Order, what that tells me, is they haven’t listened to parents yet,” Youngkin told reporters Sunday.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki applauded Arlington Public Schools for the move.
“Hi there. Arlington county parent here (don’t believe you are @GlennYoungkin but correct me if I am wrong). Thank you to @APSVirginia for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant,” tweeted Psaki.
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) sent text messages to parents saying it will “continue universal mask wearing” despite Youngkin’s executive order.
“FCPS is reviewing Governor Youngkin’s executive order issued this weekend. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to share any updated information with you around FCPS COVID-19 practices and protocols as needed,” the message read.
Youngkin made it clear he is willing to fight back.
“We will use every resource within the Governor’s authority to explore what we can do and what we will do in order to make sure parent’s rights are protected,” said Youngkin.
Youngkin’s executive order allows parents to choose whether their child wears a mask in school or not.
“A child whose parent has elected that he or she is not subject to a mask mandate should not be required to wear a mask under any policy implemented by a teacher, school, school district, the Department of Education, or any other state authority,” the order said.
The order does not go into effect until January 24. Youngkin says this gives school districts enough time to implement new policies.
“I just hope Arlington County Public schools and the rest of the school systems around the commonwealth of Virginia use this week to listen to parents,” said Youngkin. “And get prepared, because we granted parents the option to decide whether they want their child to wear a mask or not, and we’re going to protect that right.”
The Republican newcomer signed a batch of executive orders Saturday, just hours after being sworn in, including banning critical race theory in public education, terminating the Virginia Parole Board, and ending COVID-19 vaccines for state employees.
Youngkin took the oath of office as Virginia’s 74th Governor Saturday, becoming the state’s first Republican to be sworn in since 2010.