FCPS removes mask mandate

Lara Hans, Opinion Editor

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) sent out an email on Feb. 18, recognizing their legal obligations to follow Governor Youngkin’s Senate Bill 739, which eliminates mask mandates for all Virginia schools. 

Senate Bill 739 was introduced on Jan. 21, and then passed by the Senate on Feb. 9 after multiple Democratic senators voted with Republicans to advance the bill. The bill then passed through the Virginia House on Feb. 14, and was finally signed into law by Governor Youngkin on Feb 16. The law was meant to go into effect on July 1, but Youngkin added an emergency clause to move the start date up to March 1. 

Prior to the full legalization of Senate Bill 739, FCPS announced their own roll back plan for mask mandates on Feb. 10.  This plan included optional masking, and would have been implemented when community transmission data reached a moderate level (10-49) and stayed there for seven consecutive days. 

Under Governor Youngkin’s new law, parents may choose to have their student opt-out of wearing a mask at school. In a poll conducted by the Hawk Talk, 72.7% of Madison students surveyed said that they would continue to wear masks after the mandate is lifted, while another 27.3% said that they would not. 

“I personally think it’s irresponsible and insensitive,” said Allison Schumer (‘23). “This is a world pandemic and I understand most of us are sick of masks, but we wear them for our and others’ safety.”

On the other side of the issue, some students believe that the removal of this mandate is the way to move forward. 

“I personally see no issue, COVID cases have yet to spike and everything seems fine as of now,” said Alora Schoenberg (‘24). “Those who believe we should keep the mask are under the impression that we all wear them properly anyways, which just isn’t true. So while it makes some uncomfortable, I believe the lift of the mask mandate was necessary to move forward.”

On Feb. 27, FCPS sent out an email updating their policy on school staff wearing masks. Previously, due to the Virginia Department of Labor, school staff members were required to wear masks during periods of substantial and high transmission. However, the policy has been changed so that masking is now optional for everyone in the school. 

In January, FCPS and six other school districts in Northern Virginia filed a lawsuit against Governor Youngkin on the basis of his executive order, questioning the constitutionality of it. However, now that the executive order has been signed into law, the lawsuit is essentially moot. 

Although FCPS has acknowledged their legal obligations to comply with Governor Youngkin’s new law, masks were still required until March 1. Other school districts reacted differently, as Loudoun County Public Schools made masks optional on Feb. 16 and Prince Williams County Schools made masks optional effective Feb 22.