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F.C. School Board Adopts New Masking Policy in Wake of Youngkin’s Order

Thursday, Jan. 20 — In the wake of newly-inaugurated Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order last weekend prohibiting mask-wearing mandates for public schools, contravening state law to the contrary, the school board of the Falls Church City Public Schools met at length tonight and adopted a new student masking policy that will continue to require all students wear masks for the next three weeks, until Feb. 14, or until the Fairfax Health Department has deemed the Covid-19 infection rate in the City to be lowered from its current rating as “high” to “moderate” for a period of seven consecutive days, and at that point make masking optional for students whose parents act to opt them out.     

The vote was 5-2 with board members Phil Reitinger and Lori Silverman voting no. Still, board chair Laura Downs said she was pleased that a “consensus” was reached on the board by a large majority.      Waiving a “first reading” requirement, the policy goes into effect immediately, and it was clarified that under the terms of the policy, if a student shows up for school Monday, the date that Youngkin’s policy is set to go into effect, without a mask, that student will be handed a mask to wear and if that student refuses, the student will be sent home.     

It was the legal opinion of the board’s counsel that Youngkin’s executive order runs against current state law in existence. Reitinger said he did not agree with the idea of a “expiration date” for the implementation of the policy, and Silverman said the executive order is “awful” and that “hates it,” but fears the litigation consequences.     Superintendent Peter Noonan noted that for a student to opt out of wearing a mask, the decision has to be made by the parents and evidence of that will have to be provided.