Fairfax County Public Schools Ends Mask Mandate for Students and Staff


Fairfax County Public Schools announced it will no longer require students, staff, and visitors to wear masks beginning March 1st. The change allows FCPS to comply with a new state law signed by Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin that effectively bans mask mandates in local school districts while following newly updated CDC guidelines.

FCPS said in the update there will be no formal process for parents and guardians to opt their child out of masking, rather their student(s) may choose to come to school without a mask. Masks will not be required on school buses or vans either since community levels of Covid-19 are low, according to the CDC’s new metrics.

Senior Dominic Onyedeke believes the change in masking requirements is a step in the right direction, but he continues to feel cautious about the situation, saying, “I do think it’s important to have a mask if you have any family that … might be at risk.”

The district will no longer contact trace individual Covid-19 cases based on the Virginia Department of Health removing this requirement of school districts, but it will do so in the case of an outbreak.

These changes come amid new CDC guidance, which changes the way Covid-19 risk is categorized. The new metric is based on new hospitalizations, cases, and hospital capacity. It includes low, medium, and high categories of Covid-19 level in communities.

The change means more than 70% of the American population, including Fairfax County, falls under the low or medium category of community Covid-19 community levels. In these areas, the CDC no longer recommends masking for healthy adults. Most of the Washington, DC area is in the low category as of February 24th, according to the CDC’s latest US Covid-19 Community Levels by County map.

Onyedeke explained his view on the new metric, saying, “I think the CDC’s progression with lowering the restrictions is also … going eye to eye with how the cases are going. In the near future, if cases … skyrocket … I think it’s very important that the CDC also increases its restrictions.”

FCPS cited this new guidance in its decision, saying, “Based on these new metrics … FCPS will … allow everyone … to make a choice whether or not they will wear a mask.”

The district stressed the importance of a caring culture in its update, saying, “We will respect each other and show compassion and kindness for those who have different needs and viewpoints.”

“I have faith that we … go to a school that is very accepting of different opinions,” Onyedeke said. “There’s got to be … an outlier where … some kid does not approve of this and some conflict may rise up, but I think it’s very slim chances.”

With the change in mask policy, the FCPS school board released a separate statement in which it encouraged the community to follow the guidance of health officials for the benefit of protecting vulnerable staff and students.

It urges the community to be cautious about removing masks, saying, “We strongly recommend that parents/guardians continue to have their children wear masks in school.”

“We [students] have great immune systems to … shield us but we have parents at home,” Onyedeke said as he explained why he believes students carry a responsibility to wear a mask. ”I think we still have to care for them.”