First day without a mask mandate or contact tracing at public schools in Hanover County

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) — Monday, Jan. 31, marked the first time in nearly two years that wearing a mask was completely optional for students in Hanover County. The school district is also removing contact tracing.

All of this is drawing mixed reactions from parents and community members, who remain widely divided.

The Hanover County School Board voted unanimously, 7 to 0, to send students back to school Monday with optional masking. It’s a stark contrast to how the board felt over the summer.

“Rates are so high right now,” said first-grade parent Lindsay Robinson. “This is compared to a 4 to 3 vote in August when rates were so much lower. I was shocked that some members of our school board seemed to change their minds.

The community has voiced its opinions on both sides of the issue.

“I think it’s crazy. I think masks should be worn in schools,” said Hanover County resident Jessica Lewis.

“Schools shouldn’t be able to tell parents what to do with their own kids,” Sherri Harrison said.

Hanover County Public Schools told NBC12 there were no reports of any problems at the school with the new guidelines. Parents like Lindsay Robinson worry that the lack of protocols is a recipe for disaster.

“The message from the Hannover school system and the Hannover school board is that this COVID is so contagious that we can no longer contact the trace because it stresses our system and our capacity,” she said. “Yet you don’t have to wear a mask and protect everyone. It just doesn’t make sense.

Others say student mental health should take priority over protocols and mask-wearing.

“Some kids it’s not going to bother them, but some kids see them growing up with maybe anxiety attacks, stress-related stuff,” Harrison said.

“Most kids won’t wear them anyway,” Robert Massey said. “They are going to come together and the masks are taken off.”

Robinson is concerned that the school district may not be able to gauge the severity of COVID-19 in the classroom without contact tracing.

“Especially since they no longer report cases to families; how will we see COVID play out in our school? ” she says. “If we ever really know the impact since we are no longer informed of the cases.”

Even though masks are optional in school buildings, Hannover will still require them on buses in accordance with the federal mandate.

Hannover is also allowing parents to join the virtual learning waiting list, but places are very limited.

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