Thanks to Rachel Levy (a teacher and parent who is running as the Democratic nominee to represent the 55th District in Virginia’s House of Delegates) for this update on what’s going on with Hanover County schools. As Levy notes, the Richmond Times-Dispatch article “leaves out a lot of what happened at the Hanover School Board meeting, including anti maskers from the local ‘patriots’ insurrectionist group issuing threats and being so disorderly the meeting had to be recessed and deputies brought in.” In the end, Levy writes that she is “deeply disappointed and shaken up by my own mis-estimation of the Hanover School Board. I thought they would do the right thing for public health and for the safety of our children, our teachers and educators, and our community.”
The attached article leaves out a lot of what happened at the Hanover School Board meeting, including anti maskers from the local “patriots” insurrectionist group issuing threats and being so disorderly the meeting had to be recessed and deputies brought in. In the meantime, here’s my statement on the School Board’s decision:
This evening, the Hanover County School Board voted 4-3 to allow masks to be optional indoors for all K-12 students and staff.
Given what I know about what would be at stake for Hanover County Public Schools if they didn’t do so and the liability they would face, I was confident that the Superintendent would propose and ultimately that the majority of the Hanover School Board would vote tonight to follow Virginia law and the CDC recommendations. I am deeply disappointed and shaken up by my own mis-estimation of the Hanover School Board. I thought they would do the right thing for public health and for the safety of our children, our teachers and educators, and our community. And if not that, I thought they would at least vote to keep Hanover Schools in compliance with the CDC recommendations and Virginia law. That is what they have said they would do.
I had advocated, as a Hanover citizen, parent, and taxpayer, to Hanover School Board members that they follow the CDC recommendations and Virginia law (SB 1303) and institute a universal masking requirement for all K-12 staff and students until more in area are vaccinated and until the CDC and VDH recommend otherwise. I advocated for this because the Delta variant is highly transmissible, it’s on the rise and spreading in the Chickahominy Health District and in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and too low a percentage of the people of Hanover County, the Chickahominy Health District and Virginia are vaccinated. Our schools will be operating at close to in-person capacity and students and staff will be teaching and learning (and eating and playing. . . ) mostly indoors. Furthermore, with the Delta variant, those who are vaccinated can still carry and spread the virus and we can still get sick, especially in K-12 schools where the vaccinated will be around large numbers of unvaccinated people all day, every day. Being vaccinated and wearing a mask will protect against that, and for those who are not yet vaccinated, the mask will add significant protection to them. I am in favor of granting medical exemptions to masking to those who require them which is another reason to require masks—those of us who don’t need medical exemptions from masking can help to protect those who do.
As a public school teacher and parent myself this is not something I asked for lightly. I strongly dislike teaching all day in a mask and masking, especially in schools, does have negative educational and social impacts. But saving lives, preventing serious illness, and reducing the spread of this dangerous virus far outweighs those negatives. In addition, staff members and students’ getting sick and/or having to quarantine will be very disruptive and will also have negative consequences to the educational process. From a financial standpoint, when Hanover County Public schools are found liable for being out of compliance with Virginia law, and enabling covid’s spread and potential sickness and death of Hanover Schools’ students and staff, it is the taxpayers who will be on the hook for the payments that Hanover County Public Schools will have to make to the victims of their negligence.
In times of crisis such as this pandemic, we must all work together to end the crisis and protect the most vulnerable, such as those who cannot wear masks and those who aren’t eligible or haven’t been able to receive the vaccine, for whatever reason.
In most cases, wearing a mask and getting the vaccine is not an individual medical decision; rather, it’s a community standard and public health decision that protects ALL of us–that’s how inoculations work.
If you are a Hanover citizen, please contact School Board members and Board of Supervisor members and urge the to change their policy so that Hanover County Public Schools are in compliance with the law and do that our children, our educators, and our community members.
“Emotions ran high on Tuesday night as two Richmond-area school boards faced tough crowds in votes about mask mandates for the coming school year.
After hearing from public speakers that among other things compared masks to child abuse, Hanover County’s School Board overruled the system’s superintendent and voted 4-3 against requiring students or staff to wear masks for the 2021-22 school year. The Chesterfield School Board had not voted by press time.
Hanover Superintendent Michael Gill had recommended that elementary students wear masks, with staff and secondary students wearing them in schools only if unvaccinated.
Board member John Axselle made the motion to allow for the choice, saying that while he respects Gill’s recommendations, he said the data points “don’t justify making the changes,” in which he was referring to mask mandates. “Who better to make a choice about a child’s safety than their parents.”
Fellow board member Steve Ikenberry concurred, saying that evidence doesn’t support students — particularly young ones — in masks.
All Virginia public school systems are reopening buildings to students this fall under a new state law requiring in-person instruction unless a coronavirus outbreak considered severe under federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards occurs.”