School Masking Optional Monday

Coming this Monday, in accordance with the policy adopted by the Falls Church School Board last month, parents who wish for their children to opt out of mandatory masking in City of Falls Church public school classrooms may do so. The School Board had the opportunity to modify the policy at its meeting this Tuesday, and took no action to do so.

As of Wednesday afternoon, according to the City schools, 34 parents have completed the forms required to opt their children out of wearing masks as of this Monday.

As a result, the latest hubbub in Richmond centered on a preliminary vote in the State Senate to follow the new Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s anti-mask mandate in state schools is, for City residents at least, a moot point. It is expected to become even more that way in the coming weeks.

A preliminary amendment vote Monday found 10 of the state’s 21 Democrats voted with the governor’s position, including a co-sponsor of the measure, State Sen. Chap Petersen of Fairfax City. Petersen, it turns out, is slated to become the City of Falls Church’s new representative in the Senate as the new redistricted boundaries begin to go into effect.

Many Democrats opposed Youngkin’s initiative on grounds that he violated state law countermanding an existing state law by issuing an executive order his first day in office. A lively debate on the issue was reportedly going on in the Democratic caucus meeting yesterday.

Otherwise, however, as State Del. Marcus Simon of Falls Church told the News-Press this week, the whole issue could amount to “a big Nothing Burger” as the pandemic recedes and along with it, mask mandates generally.

But of most relevance to Falls Church is not Petersen’s vote, as the City’s prospective new state senator, on this issue per se, but its representation of the lawmaker’s political posture over time that is almost certain to rankle many Democratic activists in the City.

Come next year, when the senate seat will come for election next, City residents will need to decide if they accept Petersen’s brand of Democratic moderation, which he is famous for within the Democratic caucus in Richmond, or whether they will challenge him on the ballot.

Everyone for now is waiting for the conclusion of the short legislative session in Richmond in early March before deciding on how to approach the 2023 elections with new legislative boundaries.

Not only will Petersen move in on Falls Church, where veteran Sen. Dick Saslaw has held forth the last decade, but State Del. Marcus Simon, while he will continue to represent Falls Church, is also slated to move into parts of Greater Falls Church south of the City, thereby encroaching on the district currently represented by State Del. Kaye Kory.

Simon has told the News-Press he and Kory will work out how to resolve the potential conflict amicably once the current legislative session is over to ensure they will not be competing with each other for the same constituents in the next election.

The biggest concerns currently are the new majority Republicans actions to block an initiative that would have repealed the language of the infamous Marshall Newman amendment banning same-sex unions (now overridden by federal law) in the state constitution.

They also blocked a move to automatically restore the voting rights of felons who have served out their sentences. It will be another three years now before there can be another effort to achieve this.

In a move to counter what they’ve charged is a divisive move by Gov. Youngkin, a hotline to encourage parents to file complaints about what’s going on in their child’s classroom, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee this week opened a “hotline” where citizens can report instances of the governor “failing to keep is promise to fight for all Virginians.”