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Roanoke County School Board prepares for possible mask mandate changes under Youngkin

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The Roanoke County School Board passed a motion to make masks optional for students if Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin rolls back the state’s mask mandates for public schools.

The motion was proposed by newly elected Windsor Hills District representative, Cheryl Facciani, with it passing by a 3-2 vote, Tuesday afternoon.

She said the “goal posts have moved” in regards to masks and other health safety mandates since COVID-19 first started in 2020.

“To be clear, the CDC is not a fourth branch of government,” she said, a comment she made about her opinion of its influence and recommendations during the pandemic.

She also said county parents are divided on whether they want their kids wearing masks.

“We have passionate people on both sides of the aisle. We have parents that want to mask their children and we have parents that don’t,” she said at the meeting. “If you want to mask, you should be able to mask … but if you don’t you shouldn’t have to.

“One person should not be able to choose for the next person.”

Division spokesman Chuck Lionberger said the school system has been following state mandates up until this point, and are now just working to see what the next steps are in preparation for a governor who ran, in part, on opposing mask mandates.

Board member Brent Hudson, who was elected in November to represent the Catawba District, said the county should follow state guidelines as it has been up until this point.

“Thus far we’ve been relying on the state’s guidance. If their guidance changes, I believe we need to change as well,” he said.

Virginia, like the rest of the nation, is facing a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths fueled by the highly infectious Omicron variant.

In line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Virginia in August issued a mask mandate for the state’s K-12 schools, which Youngkin has criticized and vowed to undo, even as COVID-19 cases surge in the Commonwealth.

Youngkin will take office after being sworn in at his inauguration in Richmond on Jan. 15

The board also selected its leadership for 2022 at the organizational meeting/work session meeting held Tuesday afternoon.

David Linden was selected as the new chairman for the upcoming year.

Linden represents the Hollins District on the five-person board and was first elected in 2017 before being reelected in November.

A long-time real estate agent in the valley, he previously served as school board vice-chairman for the latter half of 2020, according to a school system news release.

A native of Ohio, is a graduate of Roanoke College with a degree in political science and criminal justice.

Previous chair, Jason Moretz of the Windsor Hills District, lost his bid for reelection in November to Facciani, a candidate that was endorsed by the Roanoke County Republican Party.

The board also selected Hudson as its vice chair, another candidate the county’s Republican party endorsed.

He is serving his first term in office, after receiving just over 65% of the vote in a three-way race in November.

A Roanoke Valley native, Hudson currently serves as the chief deputy for the Roanoke County Sheriff’s Office, and previously served as a school resource officer for the Glenvar strand, according to the county’s release.

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