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RPS board votes to uphold mask policy, defying governor

Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 11:23 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2022 at 11:26 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Glenn Youngkin has only been in office for a few days. Still, his administration is already facing backlash from his executive order that gives parents the option to decide if their child remains masked in schools.

During Tuesday’s Richmond Public School Board meeting, that battle was front and center. In direct opposition to the governor’s statewide mandate, the school board voted to uphold its masking policy, which requires students, staff and teachers to wear a mask while in school, regardless of vaccination status.

After a public comment from a handful of teachers expressing concern over the spread of COVID and the risks of teaching during a pandemic, the board put forth a motion to uphold its masking policy. Board member Jonathan Young attempted to amend that policy to give RPS parents more say.

“I move that the resolution be amended to afford parents because they are most capable of discerning what constitutes the best interests of their children. The opportunity to when they identify a safety, health or welfare interest be exempt from any mask requirement relevant to their child,” Young said.

But Young’s motion swiftly died after his motion failed to get a second from one of the other board members. The board then voted 8-1 to uphold its masking policy, with Young as the only holdout.

Young pushed back at the board, questioning its faith in parents to keep their own children safe.

“I must inquire of my colleagues and the superintendent what the apprehension is relevant to trust our parents to know what is best?” Young asked.

Following the vote, Superintendent Jason Kamras doubled down on his stance towards masking in school, saying that RPS has a moral and legal obligation to keep its students, staff and faculty safe.

“It is clear that the CDC strongly endorses the use of masks in school settings,” Kamras said. “As a superintendent and the father of two children, I believe this is essential.”

This follows a renewed effort by RPS to change its isolation and quarantine policies in the schools to align with the CDC.

Tuesday, Kamras announced the isolation would be 10 days, whether asymptomatic or not. According to the updated policy, those who are exposed to COVID-19 will be given five COVID-19 rapid tests, and once a student tests negative, they can return to class.

During the public comment portion of the board meeting, several RPS teachers expressed concern over maintaining safety in the classroom with the pandemic still raging. Multiple teachers said there were more than 170 new cases across the school system Tuesday alone.

Some say they want the board to reconsider virtual options.

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