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JUST IN: Masks will be optional for FCPS students starting Tuesday

Irving Middle School students wear face masks in class (via FCPS)

Fairfax County Public Schools will comply with the new Virginia law prohibiting local school boards from enforcing universal mask requirements.

Face masks will be optional on school property for students starting Tuesday (March 1), Superintendent Scott Brabrand confirmed today (Friday) in a message to families.

“There will be no formal process required for those who elect for their child not to wear a mask on school property, including during School Age Child Care (SACC),” Brabrand said. “Please talk with your child before March 1 so they will be aware of your family’s preference for mask wearing at school.”

Masks will still be required on FCPS grounds for all adults, including staff and visitors, as well as for students in certain circumstances, including:

  • On school buses, as recommended for public transportation by the CDC
  • During off-campus field trips if masks are required by the venue
  • The Head Start program
  • Unvaccinated students participating in the Test to Stay program
  • When attending school in person during days 6-10 of a quarantine

The school system said that it remains “concerned about the health of our Fairfax community” due to COVID-19 and continues to “strongly recommend that all students continue to participate in universal masking for the protection of students and staff with health concerns.”

FCPS had defied pressure to end its universal masking policy, joining six other districts in suing Gov. Glenn Youngkin over his mask-optional executive order in January. However, it acknowledged that its legal options had run out after Youngkin signed Senate Bill 739 on Feb. 16.

Covid transmission in Fairfax County has declined the past month, dropping from high to substantial earlier this week, but under a roll-back plan announced on Feb. 10, FCPS had hoped to see it reach a moderate level before making masks optional.

The Fairfax County School Board says in a statement that it still has “constitutional concerns” about the state order and how it was adopted, arguing that S.B. 739 overrode its authority and left local school divisions “no flexibility to address future public health emergencies.”

“We encourage our community to continue to follow the guidance of health officials — particularly for the benefit of our immunocompromised students and staff,” the board said. “We must continue to work together to keep our schools safe and open for all.”

Photo via FCPS

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