Covid on the rise?

FCPS files lawsuit against governor over anti-mask order


Fatima Sayed Eltayeb

Photo of seniors Kenneth Anderson and Brian Mercado

After the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases, concerns rose amongst parents and students regarding the safety of being in school.

Asides from the surge in Covid cases, there have been other issues that FCPS has been battling. One of them being Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order on mask mandates.

Youngkin’s order was signed during his first day in office, and he stated that parents should have the right to choose whether or not students should wear their masks in school, but FCPS says otherwise. The orders main purpose was to lift the mask-mandate that is currently in place.

FCPS has decided to continue to enforce the mask mandate even after the executive order went into effect on Jan. 24.

In a message sent to FCPS Staff, Superintendent Scott Brabrand confirming that FCPS will continue to abide by the mask regulations that were set forth during the beginning of the school year.

“FCPS requires everyone, regardless of vaccination status , to wear a mask inside our buildings and on our school buses, except when alone in a room,” Brabrand wrote. “We are committed to providing all students safe in-person instruction and ensuring our schools remain open for five days of in-person instruction.”

Youngkin has faced push back from many other Virginia school districts in response to the executive order.

FCPS recently filed a legal challenge with six other school divisions that would affirm the right of school boards to enact policies at the local level. This would essentially allow for school districts to make decisions regarding in-person and virtual learning as well as mask- mandates.

“Without today’s action, school boards are placed in a legally untenable position — faced with an executive order that is in conflict with the constitution and state law,” FCPS wrote in a statement regarding the lawsuit.

FCPS as well as the other school divisions have affirmed their rights regarding the governor’s order and will continue to uphold the current mask regulation regardless of vaccination status.

Out of precaution, non-essential instructional activities have been put on pause as of now. Field trips, Second-Chance Breakfast as well as Spirit Week have been postponed.

“Those are scheduled to start back up in the first week of February. Spirit Week starts Jan. 31, and second-chance breakfast will start at the same time,” principal Shawn DeRose said.

Additionally, many activities such as the ninth grade open house as well as club interest meetings have shifted into a virtual format. Students have also continued to social-distance as well as wear their masks.

Annandale has been very cautious since the beginning of the school year in regards to Covid.

There is a set of guidelines students must follow in order to return to school after contracting Covid, and it’s been one of the ways that Annandale has been able to keep cases down while ensuring students get their education.

“There are so many different factors that go into it. Students who have tested positive may not return until all of the following: at least ten days since symptoms, or testing positive. Students must also be fever free for 24 hours,” DeRose said.

Additionally, students’ symptoms must have improved and they must have submitted a FCPS Isolation Letter with the return date to their attending school.

When a student tests positive they must notify the school in order to receive an Isolation Letter with their return to school date.

Although unlikely, students and teachers have been preparing in the event that FCPS transitions into virtual learning.

W4’s will be used to familiarize students with Zoom as well as Schoology.

“I feel like I learn better doing in-person learning instead of virtual,” senior Valentin Pinzon said. “Virtual learning was really boring and repetitive and I feel like I wasn’t productive.”

Students took to Twitter to express their frustrations with the county, but they were met with no response.

The comfort of learning safely in school wasn’t the only thing that Covid has affected. There has been a shortage of bus drivers as well as substitute teachers which has affected students in numerous ways.

“My bus has been picking us up later than usual, and it’s annoying because it’s colder and we have to wait outside longer,” freshman Hamza Wasuge.

One of the biggest concerns amongst students is the cafeteria. The newest variant of Covid, Omicron, spreads much faster than the Delta variant. Although the symptoms are milder, it can be spread quickly and easily without even knowing that you have it.

Many students have been avoiding the cafeteria to keep themselves from catching Covid, but with the winter weather, the options for less crowded seating have been limited.

All outdoor seating has been closed since temperatures started dropping, and Clausen Hall was closed for some time due to testing. Despite this, students have come up with their own solution: staying in their teachers’ classrooms.
Regardless of all of the precautionary measures that are being taken, many students feel that all of this effort is futile and FCPS should transition to virtual learning until cases go down.

“I try to avoid contact with other students as much as possible because I have high-risk family members and I don’t want to risk getting them sick,” senior Tsion Abate said. “I personally think FCPS should go virtual for a little bit because it would be so much easier, and we wouldn’t have to worry about getting sick or getting anyone else sick.”
According to FCPS’ Covid-19 Health Metrics, over 900 people have tested positive for Covid since the beginning of January.

This number is expected to grow in the coming weeks.

Since the return to school some students have been being pulled out of their classes randomly to get Covid tested.
“Someone came to my biology class and dropped off a pass that told me to go to the training room, and when I got there they made me get a Covid test,” senior Trisha Tran said.

Covid doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon, but there are still a variety of ways to stop the spread and to keep yourself and others safe.

Students were apprehensive about returning to school after winter break, so they responded by preparing to be as safe as possible. They did this by following CDC guidelines and being aware of their surroundings.

FCPS has also been encouraging and using layered prevention strategies to keep in-school transmissions rates as low as possible.

These strategies include getting vaccinated, wearing masks, monitoring symptoms, getting tested, ventilation, disinfecting as well as a variety of other methods.

Regardless of the governor’s orders, students are required to continue wearing their masks in the school building.