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Bill to make school masks optional heads to Gov. Youngkin

Governor Glenn Youngkin is a step closer to fulfilling one of his campaign promises.

Monday morning, the House of Delegates approved a bill to make masks optional in public K-12 schools. The votes fell along party lines 52-48.

Before the vote, Republican Delegate Emily Brewer made a personal argument. "When I had a 4 year old come home and say, 'I think my teacher’s mean. I can’t see her face anymore.' We had to explain to him how people smile with their eyes. Where are we at as a society," she asked?

Democratic leader Eileen Filler-Corn argued conditions still aren't safe in most parts of the state and said the legislation will make it harder to respond to future outbreaks or new pandemics. "This bill ties the hands of local schools to work with local health departments to ensure we can keep the schools open," Filler-Corn warned. Democrats tried to amend the bill to guarantee local mask option and to set a 2023 sunset date, but those efforts failed.

The bill already passed the Senate. Following passage in the House Monday morning, Republican leaders walked the legislation to Youngkin’s office. He’s expected to add an amendment to put the law into effect immediately, instead of the default July 1st enactment date.

The House and Senate would still have to approve the amendment, but it’s likely to pass.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

David Seidel is Radio IQ's News Director.
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