Montgomery County Public Schools votes for universal masking at beginning of school year

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 7:47 AM EDT
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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Montgomery County Public Schools is the first district in the New River Valley to vote for universal masking.

The announcement was made late Tuesday night.

The school board says its decision comes as the delta variant has prompted changes in guidance from state and federal health leaders.

“Right now because of the concern for the delta variant, all of those recommendations lined up and so I think that’s, that’s why we decided to go in that direction for now,” said Mark Cherbaka, a Montgomery County Public School board member.

Cherbaka says news of the variant has been difficult to navigate, but with the information they have -- this was the earliest they could decide on masks ahead of the school year.

“We’ve been hearing from parents for several weeks and if not months about this topic, and what I’ve, I’ve heard some parents asking that they be able to make the decision for their students on masks, I’ve heard a lot of parents asking us to mandate masks for everybody for the whole school year,” said Cherbaka.

The school board approved the masking policy on a narrow 4-3 vote Tuesday night, after hearing many divided comments from the community.

“When you think about where we are now compared to where we were a year ago, we’ve made tremendous progress,” said Cherbaka,

For now, the CDC recommends all faculty and staff, students and visitors to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

“Some people are saying that those kids should be masked not for the whole year or until there’s a vaccine available. And I think with the uncertainty of not knowing when the vaccine will be authorized for use and for those younger kids, you know, I think the science certainly seems to indicate that there is some level of community spread that we can get to where it might be safe for at least some of those kids to mask up only optionally,” said Cherbaka.

MCPS will start with universal masking for students while indoors. Staff must wear masks when in the presence of students.

The first day of school is Aug. 12.

The school board will review local health data again at its meeting Sept. 7.

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