Alexandria School Board drops mask requirement for students

The Alexandria School Board has overturned ordinance requiring face masks for students in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS), yielding to newly passed state requirements.

The vote was, in some ways, an empty gesture. The bill signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin requires that public schools treat masks as optional for students, with no punishment for students who either choose to wear a mask or choose not to.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings and Chief of Student Services and Equity Julie Crawford confirmed that there’s little “wiggle room” in the state legislature.

“The bill still in effect, whether we do anything to the policy or not,” Hutchings said. “This bill was written in a way that has no wiggle room. There’s no gray. It is what it is.”

School staff said they are still recommending mask wearing for students. The policy also applies to students but not staff, who are still required to wear a mask in school.

“This could be a period of anxiety for families and students,” Crawford said. “We’ve been sharing with them that masking has helped protect them and those around them, and this will be a big transition.”

There was discussion about possible forms for faculty to keep track of which students have opted out of wearing a mask, but Crawford said teachers were concerned about becoming “mask police.”

Crawford said the bill also covers buses, where students can still go mask free, and most athletics training and games were already headed into a mask-less outdoor season.

The School Board voted unanimously to overturn ACPS’ masking requirements.