By Matt de Simone
The Botetourt County School Board held a special meeting Monday morning following last Friday’s release of an executive summary from the governor’s office.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin made Executive Order 2 last week that makes masks optional for students in schools in the Commonwealth. The order states, “The parents of any child enrolled in an elementary or secondary school or a school-based early childcare, and educational program may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.”
Vice-Chair Dana McCaleb mentioned Botetourt County schools currently show 17% of children ages 5-11 and 42% of children ages 12-18 are vaccinated. Schools recently saw an increase in transmission rates following the students’ returning from their holiday break.
The board unanimously voted to immediately abide by Gov. Youngkin’s Executive Order No. 2 if the Supreme Court of Virginia upholds its constitutionality.
The board also set a March 7 to make masking optional for students. The motion passed 4-1. The board stated this isn’t a mandate. The March 7 date allows families the time required to have their children fully vaccinated if they choose; and provides the Supreme Court of Virginia time to rule on Youngkin’s recent order.
Lastly, the board voted unanimously to explore how to implement a “test-to-stay” (TTS) program, which would allow the division to meet the needs of both vaccinated and unvaccinated students.
Board member Tim Davidic mentioned that a parent recently mentioned this idea in a comment the board received. However, BCPS currently lacks the proper resources and will explore TTS as an option.
The TTS program is a resource-intensive effort that will require planning and commitment at the local school level to be successful. Virginia Department of Health (VDH) would provide test kits to participating schools, protocol and guidance, and technical assistance through the School Support Unit.
For more information about the VDH’s TTS program, visit https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/protect-yourself/covid-19-testing/k-12-testing/test-to-stay/.
To watch the recent special meeting of the BCPS School Board, please visit bcps.live/archives.