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Hanover School Board votes unanimously to give parents choice to mask kids in schools

Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 8:55 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2022 at 11:28 PM EST
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HANOVER, Va. (WWBT) - The Hanover County School board voted to give parents a choice when it comes to their children wearing masks in school.

The board voted unanimously to follow Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order when it comes to children wearing masks in school, which gives parents a choice on whether students wear one.

The policy will go into effect on Jan. 31, which coincides with the first day of the second semester.

Following the vote, representative Michael Gill addressed rumors circulating through social media that parents might send their kids to school without masks regardless of the board’s decision. Gill asked parents to exercise patience for the week leading up to the vote’s effective date.

“This has been one heck of a first semester,” representative Micahel Gill said. “I would appeal to all parents who agree or disagree with the board’s vote that you would respect folks in the classrooms running the schools, cafeterias, buses custodial, and support staff by adhering to the board’s vote for at least four days.”

An hour before the meeting started, a line was already beginning to form outside the school board office Monday evening.

During the meeting, tempers flared with parents and students arguing both sides about mask-wearing.

“The mask issue in Hanover County was debated and voted on before children went back to school. However, the word on the street is one of you lacks courage and conviction from that vote,” a parent said. “If you’re not a coward, then you’re a feckless bureaucrat; a piece of cloth or paper isn’t going to stop a damn thing!”

“Each of you has a choice to make. Are you going to side with the CDC, the students, the law, the silent majority of parents, or are you going to endanger thousands of Hanover County employees and residents and side with the coronavirus?” asked a Hanover student.

At one point, the meeting was driven to a halt by board members attempting to cut the tension. Ultimately, the board voted in favor of letting parents choose.

“If you don’t want mandates and you want things to go your way, please, you might want to try a little respect,” Beaverdam district representative John Axselle said.

Patricia Giambanco celebrated with her four grade-school-aged children immediately following the vote.

“I’m very happy tonight. We finally got parent’s choice, which is something we’ve been fighting for a very long time,” Giambanco said. “If you want to wear a mask, no one is telling you not to wear one, but if you don’t want to wear one - you don’t need to wear one. It’s freedom of choice.”

Giambanco says the vote is gratifying given that this is the second time the board has voted in favor of parental choice.

Representative Axselle brought up the previous vote as a way to ensure parents in attendance that the board was listening to their concerns, calming the then restless audience before the board made its unanimous decision.

“We are your school system. You are our bosses, and your children want to be here, and believe it or not, we very much do listen to you,” Axselle said. “I do believe in parental choice. It is important for parents to have a choice in their child’s education.”

“My kids, for example, said they still might be wearing masks; it’s their choice. But those who want their kids masked will still be able to have their kids mask,” Yael Levine said. “We just want parental choice like in the Virginia constitution, like in the Virginia code of education.”

The decision makes Hanover County among the first counties in the metro Richmond area to side with the governor’s executive mandate. Richmond, Chesterfield Henrico, Colonial Height, and Petersburg have decided to uphold their current mask policies for now.

This is a developing story - check back for updates.

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