Northern Virginia School Districts Go To War With Youngkin Over Repeal Of Mask Mandates

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Chrissy Clark Contributor
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Three school districts in Virginia plan to defy newly-inaugurated Glenn Youngkin’s repeal of in-school mask mandates, according to announcements from Fairfax County, Arlington, and Alexandria City Public Schools.

Arlington Public Schools (APS) announced Jan. 15, the same day as Youngkin’s inauguration, that the district would defy the Governor’s executive order that repealed in-school mask mandates. APS claims that universal masking reduces the transmission rate of COVID-19, though the district could not point to a specific study that confirms their claims.

“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.”

Nearby Fairfax County Public Schools issued a similar announcement Jan. 16.

The executive order provides parents with the opportunity to decide whether or not to mask their child during school hours. Youngkin’s executive order claims that incorrectly wearing a mask — as many children do — makes the benefits of masks largely ineffective.

“As parents and educators have observed, many children wear masks incorrectly, providing little or no health benefit,” the executive order reads. “The masks worn by children are often ineffective because they are made from cloth material, and they are often not clean, resulting in the collection of impurities, including bacteria and parasites.”

Youngkin told a WTOP reporter that he believes APS’ response to his executive order shows the district has not “listened to parents yet.”

“And if there’s one thing that hopefully everybody heard in November, is it is [sic] time to listen to parents,” Youngkin said. “We will use every resource within the Governor’s authority, to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure that parents’ rights are protected.”

Frank Bellavia, the communications director for APS, initially said that he recommended the district not respond to the Daily Caller because “it won’t get [the district] anywhere.” After further questioning, Bellavia told the Daily Caller that the district relies on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and COVID guidance from the Arlington County Public Health Department. The CDC’s guidance relies heavily on a study out of Arizona, which The Atlantic reported is riddled with flaws.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki chimed in on the mask debate and thanked APS for “standing up” for kids by continuing to uphold a universal mask mandate.

“Thank you to [Arlington Public Schools] for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant,” Psaki tweeted from her personal account.

Nicole Neily, the president and founder of the concerned parent organization Parents Defending Education, told the Daily Caller that ignoring parents’ wishes may have implications for the 2022 midterm elections.

“It’s unfortunate that the White House continues to ignore constituents’ voices on education-related issues; parents expect to play a role in their children’s education and should politicians attempt to box them out and push them away, I have no doubt that there will be electoral repercussions in the midterms,” Neily said.

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is another district bucking Youngkin’s orders. The district said they will “continue to abide by the health and safety guidelines of the CDC and the Alexandria Health Department and continue to require all individuals to wear masks and cover the nose and mouth in ACPS schools, facilities, and buses.”

The district seemingly doubled down on masking students and sent an email to parents stating that ACPS received a shipment of KN-95 masks and other surgical masks to allow for double masking, according to correspondence reviewed by the Daily Caller.

“We have begun to receive shipments of KN95 masks for students and staff, and expect deliveries to be completed by Wed., Jan. 19,” the email reads. “We have also delivered additional surgical masks to schools for double-masking as an alternative option.”

Alexandria City parents told the Daily Caller that the district appeared eager to implement executive orders passed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, making some feel that the district has a left-leaning bias.

Mother Molly Kaiman told the Daily Caller that she believes that the decision to mask children should be left up to the individual, especially as KN-95 masks are not designed for children.

“I just think it should be left up to the individual, to the parent, to decide what’s best for kids,” Kaiman said. “I think that it should be an individual right.”

Alexandria City Public Schools did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment. Fairfax County Public Schools’ Director of Communication is unavailable for comment on federal holidays.