FC schools meet tonight on Youngkin mask order

The Falls Church City School Board is meeting in a special meeting tonight at 7 p.m. to consider whether or not to join other regional school districts that have moved to challenge new Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. , on inauguration day, the executive order to remove mandates for students to wear masks in public schools.

The backlash against the new Republican Governor’s order has been swift and adamant across the Commonwealth these days. Virginia school divisions that have previously challenged the governor are Falls Church neighbors in Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, Prince William and Manassas, and following their trial have also been Montgomery, Henrico, Richmond, Roanoke, Charlottesville, Albemarle , Norfolk, Chesapeake, Fredericksburg, Nelson and Suffolk counties.

A press conference of key state lawmakers on Tuesday in Richmond underscored the challenge for educators across the state. Youngkin, they noted, threatened to use official state resources to fund Virginia schools.

State Senator Jennifer McClellan was one of five lawmakers who also spoke out against Youngkin’s Inauguration Day threat.

“I am a parent of two children from Richmond Public Schools who feel the anxiety every morning of sending my children to school and hoping that they will come home safely,” she said. . “Threats from the governor to cut funding, which he can’t do on a legal basis he doesn’t have, don’t help matters. So we are here to say that we support our school divisions, doing what they need to do to keep our children and adults safe in these school buildings. We will not let the governor overstep his authority and bully our school systems into doing something else,” she said.

Youngkin’s order rejects science and violates Senate Bill 1303 that was signed into Virginia law last year, it was noted. The law is designed to ensure student safety while receiving the maximum amount of in-person instruction time and it was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

But Youngkin’s Saturday order cited that “recent government orders requiring virtually all children in Virginia to wear masks virtually every time they are in school have proven to be ineffective and impractical.” He adds: “The universal requirement also inflicted noticeable damage and proved unworkable. Masks inhibit children’s ability to communicate, delay language development and hinder the growth of emotional and social skills…Masks have increased feelings of isolation…exacerbating mental health issues which in some cases are a plus greater health risk to students than Covid-19.

Already, 13 parents of students in Chesapeake, Va., have sued Governor Youngkin in the Virginia Supreme Court, claiming he exceeded his legal authority by overturning mask mandates in school divisions across the state. The parents are asking the state High Court to issue an emergency order preventing the new administration from enforcing Youngkin’s Jan. 15 executive order, which is otherwise expected to go into effect next Monday. The ordinance states that “no teacher, school, school district, Department of Education, or other state authority” may force a student to wear a mask against their parents’ wishes.

The federal Centers for Disease Control currently recommends “universal masking” in public schools nationwide, with some exceptions.

The lawsuit, filed by Virginia Beach attorney Kevin Martingayle, states that “a governor has no right to be unfaithful to laws with which he disagrees.” The governor “claims to sweep away masking mandates with little or no regard or respect for CDC guidelines, actions taken by the Virginia General Assembly, or powers vested in local school boards.”

He is asking the Virginia Supreme Court to “declare the order void and unenforceable” and immediately bar its implementation.

Even in Falls Church, there are parents who dusted off their arguments from a year ago against the school board here.

Superintendent Noonan released a statement on Friday that confronts criticism. He wrote: “As I hope you all know by now, we have tried to be honest and transparent information brokers throughout this pandemic. We have worked hard to communicate often and share relevant information which has helped us all through this difficult time. I believe our work translates into the trust you place in us to send your students back to school.

He added: “In recent days, we have been accused of “lack of transparency” regarding the ViSSTA program and the students/staff tested. It’s a disappointment considering the work we’ve done to keep the system open and moving forward.

“Furthermore, we are in no way trying to ‘hide the ball’ when it comes to data. However, just to clarify and clear up if there is any concern, here is some information – and for what it’s worth, these results have been included in our weekly data reports that everyone gets every week in our FCCCPS by the Numbers .

“On Sunday January 2, we held our drive-through testing session where we tested approximately 630 students and staff. We have had 61 confirmed positive cases.

“We restarted our pool testing on Thursday January 6 and tested 335 students and staff. Fifteen have been confirmed positive.

“On Thursday January 14 (yesterday) we tested 313 students and staff and we will have the results in a day or two.

“We test on Thursday in order to have the results before the start of the following week. This last week, because of the snow and the cases of Covid in the lab preparing our results, we only got them on Monday morning at 6am. Our amazing staff called and emailed each affected family before school started Monday morning.

“We had not planned to share the data from the ViSSTA program with the community because the numbers were very low, and we had no asymptomatic positive results in the three weeks of testing before the winter break and any positive results are already included in our weekly FCCCPS by the Numbers, as I shared.

“Personally identifiable information may be made public. However, as there seems to be a group in the community that wants this information, we will report it if the percentage of positive results in the group of tests of the week is higher than 5%.

Jerry B. Hatch