Chesterfield teachers react to amendment that could end school mask mandates

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – A newly approved amendment to a General Assembly bill means the public could soon see an end to mask mandates in Virginia schools.

The amendment would give parents the ability to choose whether their kids wear masks in schools without an excuse and regardless of rules adopted by local school boards.

Some Chesterfield teachers said it’s just too soon to pull mask mandates completely, especially for those families with immunocompromised children who may still be fearful of what COVID-19 can do.

“I think that it’s too fast,” said Laura Abbott, who teaches for CCPSOnline.

State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) introduced the floor amendment to a bill from state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) that would require school boards to permanently offer in-person instruction.

Sen. Petersen’s floor amendment states any parent with a child enrolled in a public school or any school-based early childhood care program could elect to send their child to the classroom without a mask “notwithstanding any other provision of law or any regulation, rule, or policy implemented by a school board, school division, school official, or other state or local authority.”

He said the bill also includes keeping schools open permanently and overrides another law that some argue requires CDC recommendations to be followed.

But, Chesterfield Education Association president Christine Melendez said COVID-19 is still very real for some people. She said she wishes ‘we could pump the brakes a little bit.’

“I hope that in the speeding up of this process, we still show grace to those who are still fearful for good reason,” she said.

Abbott agrees, saying those who are immunocompromised especially need to be protected. “For people like myself and families that have, you know, people that are immunocompromised, this is a really scary situation still,” she explained.

The bill could pass in the Senate as early as Wednesday, but then it has to go before the House of Delegates.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin could also add a clause that would allow it to go into effect as soon as it’s signed into law.

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