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Chesterfield Schools vote to give parents final say on masks

Chesterfield County School Board.png
Posted at 6:32 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 23:15:29-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The Chesterfield County School Board voted three to two on Tuesday night to give parents the decision when it comes to their children wearing masks in school.

The decision will go into effect on January 27.

The vote is in favor of Governor Glenn Youngkin's Executive Order 2 which went into effect on Monday.

Last week, the school district initially decided to keep their mask mandate in place for the time being. The majority of board members said they wanted to wait for the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to offer guidance on how to handle mask-optional issues like quarantining and contact tracing for students and staff.

When that guidance was issued, the board would reconvene to discuss and vote.

Tuesday's outcome was one that Anne Taydus was hoping for.

"We did things your way. It changed nothing in the schools. They're still spreading it. Nobody can still say how has it spread? Who gets it while vaccinated? People still spreading it? So at some point, you have to say we have to try something different," Taydus said.

Dominique Chatters said that she was angry and disappointed by the vote.

Last year, the school board signed onto Senate Bill 1303 which said that school boards would adhere to current CDC mitigation strategies. These strategies currently recommend universal masking.

She feels that the school board didn't keep its word.

"They signed the policy that expires in August of 2022. I expected us to have this conversation in the summer. Not right now in the middle of the year, not at the height of our numbers, not with so many teachers out, not with over 2,000 children in quarantine," Chatters said.

Board member Dorothy Heffron of Clover Hill voted no, questioning pulling back on COVID safety measures.

"Now is the time to ramp up our mitigation and prevention until we're on the other side of the omicron wave," Heffron said.

Kathryn Haines, who represents Midlothian, was the other no vote. For now, she believes the board should have kept with state law.

"I strongly believe the prudent decision would be to wait for the courts to rule on this," Haines said.

Of the three yes votes, board chair Ann Coker was the only one to give comments at length. She listed mitigation strategies that are already in place and will continue.

Some of the measures that will be kept in place will include HVAC infrastructure investments, testing and vaccination clinics with the Virginia Department of Health. K95 masks are also available to students and staff members.

"I hope these items help define trust and what your school division has done and will continue to do," Coker said.

In the meantime, both Chatters and Taydus say they are concerned for their children.

"My children, they carry spare masks in their book bags. So now they'll be doubled," Chatters said.

"She's scared to death to go to school on Thursday without a mask because kids are getting bullied over vaccination status," Taydus said.

At Tuesday's meeting, it was made clear that bullying won't be tolerated.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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