New bill would potentially ban mask mandates in West Virginia schools

FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – The “Public School Health Rights Act” is a bill authored by republican lawmakers in the West Virginia Legislature. If passed, it would ban mask mandates and change certain testing requirements in schools. 

The bill would ban local school boards from enacting mask mandates, and also stop school districts from requiring COVID  tests for students without symptoms.

Fayette County is one that would be affected by the bill if it was to pass. Right now, masks are required in all classrooms. 

WOAY asked Fayette County Superintendent Gary Hough what he thinks of the bill and how it may affect the school system. He says the school board has a mask mandate right now because that’s what health officials recommend.

According to state and federal health officials, the masks reduce the number of kids getting sick, and thus prevents kids from having to leave school.

The Fayette County School Board is hoping the state government takes advice from health officials when deciding on the bill.

“As long as we can keep our students in school and we can deal with the issue, our board has taken the stance we will be compliant with whatever comes down the road,” Hogue said. “The issue is that keeping our students in school is a top priority.”

In the past, Gov. Justice has been a supporter of mask mandates, but has insisted on letting county governments make their own decisions. 

Right now, 35 out of 55 counties in the state require masks in schools. Many others have rules in place that would set up a mask mandate after an outbreak.  

The bill would also standardize quarantine rules. Students who test positive for COVID-19 will need to isolate for up to five days or until they receive a negative test, whichever comes first.

The bill is authored by Raleigh County Del. Jordan Maynor. In a statement to WOAY, Maynor says he believes the bill promotes choice for parents. 

“The bill empowers parents to make decisions on school masking for their children and empowers school personnel to make masking decisions that are right for them,” Maynor said.” The language also standardizes and codifies our quarantine policy to make sure our children are able to safely stay in school and get the best possible education.”

If the bill was to pass, then West Virginia would not be the first state to ban mask mandates. The Governor of Virginia has effectively banned mask mandates in schools. This affected local schools in Tazewell County, which previously required masks in all county schools. 

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