Catholic schools in Virginia have decided to make masks optional for students, starting from Monday, the effective date of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order (pdf) that ends mask mandate in schools.
“The health and safety of all students and staff in our schools, while maintaining in-person instruction, remains our top priority,” wrote Amber Roseboom, Director of Media Relations at the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, in an email statement to The Epoch Times.
“Throughout the pandemic, our Catholic schools have been directed to follow state and local public health directives. Where those have been in conflict, the state requirement has primacy,” Roseboom explained.
The statement continued, “Therefore, Diocesan direction to our schools is to continue following local public health guidance, without, however, violating the rights of parents as described in Executive Order 2. The governor’s executive order is clear on the right of parents not to have their child be subject to a mask mandate.”
According to Roseboom, the updated guidance was provided to pastors and school leaders across the Diocese of Arlington on Thursday. The schools will continue to follow mitigation measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Diocese of Arlington is one of the two catholic dioceses in Virginia. According to its website, the diocese had 50 schools and an enrollment of 17,274 in the 2018–2019 school year. It covers counties north of Richmond, including counties—Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Frederick—where school boards have voted to keep the mask mandate, defying the executive order Governor Glenn Youngkin signed on his first day of office on Jan. 15.
Diocese of Richmond, the other Virginia catholic diocese, has 29 schools with over 8,000 students.
On Thursday, superintendent Kelly M. Lazzara of the Diocese of Richmond Catholic Schools emailed student families the same decision. She wrote in the letter, “This Order [Youngkin’s executive order two] terminates Public Health Emergency Order Ten that was issued on August 12, 2021, which mandated masks be worn by all individuals in all schools,” adding, “All our Diocesan schools will comply with Executive Order Two.”
Lazzara reminded parents of “higher risk for meeting the close contact definition, requiring quarantine, and potentially face longer quarantine periods.” Nevertheless, parents can complete an election sheet to indicate their masking choices for their children.
The mask option doesn’t apply to school buses due to a CDC requirement on public transportation, including school buses.