HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Masks will be required for all students and staffers in Henrico Schools regardless of vaccination status, the county's school board decided in a unanimous vote Thursday afternoon.
The decision came during a work session where the Health Committee recommended masks for virtually all students K-12 regardless of vaccination status.
Watch CBS 6 News starting at 5 p.m. for complete coverage from reporter Brendan King.
Dr. Beth Teigen, who introduced the health committee's guidance to the board, said that in the case of an outbreak or a surge of cases, closures will happen within a classroom, grade, or school level. The entire district will not be closed.
"Vaccinations, wearing a mask, and staying home when sick are critical," Dr. Teigen told the board. "Given the CDC updated guidance on vaccinated individuals, being fully vaccinated use of a mask can significantly reduce your quarantining time if an exposure occurs."
Officials also said that teachers and staff who will be required to quarantine in the case of exposure or positive COVID-19 test will be required to use their own sick leave.
Dr. Teigen tells @HenricoSchools Board Member Kristi Kinsella that in the case of an outbreak or a surge of cases, closures will happen within a classroom, grade, or school level. The entire district will not be closed. @CBS6 pic.twitter.com/wqjhap7VL0— Brendan King CBS 6 (@ImBrendanKing) August 12, 2021
Outside of the New Bridge Learning Center about a dozen teachers held a Rally For Masks Thursday.
"Best way forward this year is to have masking for everyone who can wear a mask," said Henrico educator John Reaves.
The school district is also offering a virtual option for students. School board members pushed Superintendent Amy Cashwell to expand the Henrico Virtual Learning for students where the wait list currently has 800 individuals waiting for spots.
Alicia Atkins, who represents the Varina District and sits on the Health committee, said she hoped masks would unit rather than divide the community.
"We love our children and want the best for them," Atkins explained. "I'm so hopeful that as we go into this school year, regardless of what side you’re on or if you’re on the middle - you know our 'why' is protecting our kids."
The unanimous vote came moments before Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order mandating masks wearing for K-12 students and staff throughout the Commonwealth.
Those decisions were applauded by Brittany Rose, a mother to two Henrico County teenagers.
"Our kids need to be back in school and to make sure that happens and continues to happen is for universal masking regardless of whether someone is vaccinated or not," she stated.
Additionally, Henrico County officials announced Thursday that effective immediately everyone, egardless of vaccination status, is required to wear a face covering inside the county's buildings and facilities.
"This requirement is for visitors as well as employees," officials said.
The change comes because of the "local spread of the delta variant and a recent increase of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Henrico and across the region" and guidance from the CDC and Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, according to officials.