When Fairfax County Public Schools resumes classes in January, students and staff may once again be required to wear face masks — but only around students with disabilities who request the accommodation.
Virginia settled a lawsuit last week with parents of 12 immunocompromised students who argued that the end of Covid-related face mask requirements in schools violated their right to a free, appropriate public education.
As part of the settlement, the state agreed that, if requested by a parent, schools must allow “some amount of required masking as a reasonable modification” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Virginia Department of Education was directed to send guidance on “peer masking” to the schools attended by students in the lawsuit, including Stenwood Elementary School in Dunn Loring.
“The health and well-being of our students and staff remain a top priority. FCPS is aware of this settlement and is currently assessing how it impacts operations,” FCPS said in a statement.
The settlement only directly applies to the specific schools attended by the plaintiffs’ kids, who have asthma, cystic fibrosis and other conditions that put them at high risk of getting severely sick if they contract COVID-19.
However, when announcing the settlement on Dec. 12, the ACLU of Virginia — one of several organizations representing the parents — expressed hope that it will signal to other schools that they should consider requiring masks when needed for students with disabilities as well.
“We’re hopeful that every school in Virginia will view this settlement as a sign that they should make similar accommodations for their students, even if they are not part of the case,” ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Eden Heilman said.
The complaint was filed in federal court in Charlottesville on Feb. 1, shortly after Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order making masks optional in schools took effect.
FCPS and six other school districts sued Youngkin in an effort to block the order, arguing that universal masking was still necessary as the country was just starting to exit the biggest surge in COVID-19 cases of the pandemic.
That lawsuit was rendered moot once a bill requiring schools to allow parents to opt their kids out of wearing a mask became law on Feb. 16. FCPS made masks optional on March 1, though the school board filed a brief supporting the families who sued.
Acknowledging an initial court ruling from March, the settlement says the state law and executive order don’t prohibit schools from considering and fulfilling mask requirement requests to accommodate students with disabilities.
Under the agreement, schools are expected to look at alternatives, such as ventilation improvements or social distancing, before requiring masks. They must also “take every reasonable step” to ensure a student whose parents don’t want them to wear a mask doesn’t have to.
The settlement also required the state to pay $295,000 to cover the suing parents’ legal fees.
“This settlement is a step toward righting a wrong,” Tasha Nelson, one of the parents, said. “Children like mine should not be told they cannot participate safely in school or that they have to be segregated. They have a right to the same education as every other child. As adults, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we include everyone in our decisions and come up with solutions that provide equity in school.”
While Covid cases haven’t gotten close to last winter’s levels, they have been climbing over the past few weeks, with the Fairfax Health District averaging 260.3 cases per day for the preceding week, as of yesterday (Monday).
FCPS has reported a total of 5,969 cases among students and staff since this school year began on Aug. 22 — exceeding the 3,669 cases seen over the same time frame in 2021. Students are now on winter break until Jan. 3.
Photo via Mika Baumeister/Unsplash
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Camps are just the beginning of what’s in store at Art House 7 this summer. We’re thrilled to offer an array of exciting classes for both kids and adults!Rediscover your creativity with some of our AH7 favorites, such as drawing, hand-sewing, modern embroidery, and our popular 3-week Jump into Crochet classes. But that’s not all! We’ve added some fresh and exciting options to our summer class selection, guaranteed to spark your imagination.
To enhance your artistic journey, we have intensified some of our Ceramics: The Wheel classes to a full 3-hour duration. This extended time allows for more creativity and skill development in each class session. If you’re eager for a captivating twist, give Contemporary Still-Life Drawing & Painting a go. Or why not try an immersive outdoor painting adventure? We have a unique opportunity for you to bring your painting skills to life while learning and creating in the great outdoors with our Landscape Painting: Studio and Plein Air class!
We invite you to visit our website and explore our full Summer Session schedule, brimming with a diverse range of classes and camps. Classes and camps begin June 20th. Unleash your inner artist, broaden your horizons, and embark on a summer adventure like no other. Let’s make this a summer to remember at Art House 7!
Potomac Harmony Chorus has a new director! We’re ready
to kick off the season with new music, a new approach, and YOU!
Potomac Harmony is one of 500 choruses in Sweet
Adelines International. We’re a vibrant,
contemporary, inclusive, welcoming, and open community of women singers who
perform four-part harmony, barbershop style, committed to a high level of
achievement through teaching, mentoring, personal growth, and performance. Our vision is to entertain, educate, and
enrich lives through musical expression while promoting the barbershop art
Potomac Harmony recently had our first performance
with our new director, receiving rave reviews! We invite you to stop by any Wednesday
evening and be part of the fun and harmony!
Army Birthday Festival – Free and Fun
Make Saturday, June 10, 2023 a great day!
Come celebrate the Army Birthday Festival at the National Museum of the U.S. Army from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Rain or Shine!
• Experience outdoor and indoor fun activities, for all
Unveiling of West Ford historical highway marker
Gum Springs will be celebrating 190 years of its founding by freedman West Ford on Saturday, June 17, 2023. To kick-off the celebration, there will be an unveiling of a Virginia historical highway marker for West Ford on Fordson Road