HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Thursday marked the first day in nearly two years public school students in Henrico County had the option of whether or not to wear masks in class.
The switch move came one day after Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law a bill that banned Virginia school systems from imposing mask mandates on students.
While the governor gave school systems until March 1 to comply with the new law, Henrico Schools decided to act quickly feeling it was too difficult to continue a universal mandate.
Still, Henrico School leaders strongly advised students wear masks inside during times of high transmission. The district asked parents to talk to their children about why some students might choose to wear a mask while others do not.
"Our goal is to maintain safe and respectful classrooms where all students are engaged in their learning without discord over family mask choices," a school spokesperson wrote in an email.
"It was a wonderfully worded email saying they’d watch closely for any bullying of kids who need to wear masks for medical reasons or kids who choose not to wear them," a parent said outside of Freeman High School in western Henrico.
While some parents said the state should give districts the ability to decide for themselves what their individual communities need, others said they were tired of being told how to parent.
"There’s pros and cons both ways," another parent outside Freeman High School said. "But parents definitely should have the choice and the schools need to abide by the parent's choice."
Chesterfield and Hanover Schools made masking optional last month. Richmond Schools has not yet announced when it will make the switch.
Federal law still requires students to wear masks on the school bus.
Masks are also still required for adult visitors and guests at Henrico Schools.
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