Masks Still Required at FCPS Schools Despite Executive Order

image via WHO

image via WHO

Emily Conway, staff writer

 Newly-inaugurated Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed several executive orders after he took office on January 15th. In his campaign, Glenn Youngkin advocated for a new response to the pandemic, which emphasized personal choice instead of statewide mandates. One of these orders removed mask mandates in schools, claiming that “requiring virtually every child in Virginia [to] wear masks virtually every moment they are in school [has] proven ineffective and impractical.” The executive order states “parents, not the government, have the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children.” This mandate gives parents the power to choose whether or not their child will wear a mask to school, which took effect on Monday, January 24th. While this executive order lifts the state-wide mask mandate requiring all students to wear masks while attending school, school districts are still given the authority to put their own mask mandates in place. 

 

The mask mandates for schools were put in place to follow CDC guidelines to protect children, since younger children often don’t realize how important masks are. Despite the mask mandate “FCPS continues to require universal mask wearing in alignment with CDC guidance. Our layered prevention strategies have proven effective in keeping transmission rates low in our schools.” according to a statement from district superintendent Scott Brabrand. Proper mask wearing will be included in the FCPS dress code, and failure to consistently wear a mask will result in a SR&R violation. As for the future, FCPS  schools hopes “we can work together to find the right time for us to begin to remove some of our layered prevention strategies, but this is not the time,” as stated in a second statement from Brabrand. Other school districts still requiring masks include Arlington County, Alexandria City, Loudoun County and Prince William County.

 

With the emergence of the Omicron variant, parents have had a very difficult time finding suitable masks for their young children. According to NPR, cloth masks are not effective enough against the variant, while N95 and KN95 masks are essential to slowing the spread. “It’s very hard to even find pediatric KN95s or pediatric KF94s. And there’s no such thing as pediatric N95s,” according to Jeremy Howard, a data scientist and researcher on the benefits of masking. But many child-sized versions of masks don’t fit properly or are significantly lower quality than their adult-sized counterparts. Many parents and teachers report that students have a difficult time consistently wearing their mask, and many students require constant reminders. For younger children and children with special needs, wearing a mask properly for an entire school day can be even harder.