A Maryland legislative committee on Friday approved the State Board of Education’s decision to allow all 24 local school districts to decide whether to require face coverings in schools.
This decision is immediate and ends an emergency order that required schools to mask since the start of the school year. Both Gov. Larry Hogan (a Republican) and Mohammed Choudhury (the state superintendent of schools), had lobbied for this decision.
Maryland State Education Association is the union representing 76,000 teachers, support staff and other workers. They asked for caution and that the mask mandate be kept in place.
The December mandate was updated to give local school systems the ability to eliminate the mask requirement if the spread is moderate or low for at least two weeks or if vaccination rates are higher than 80 percent. Anne Arundel County is one of the few school districts that have met the criteria and has made masks voluntary. School buses will continue to require that pupils wear face covers.
Cheryl Bost, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher who serves as the union’s president, said in an interview that the system was working well and that school districts were reaching safe levels. She had recommended waiting for a week before removing the state mandate.
“You must allow districts and families transitional time to make decisions,” she said. “There are students and educators currently able to take part in in-person instruction because of the mask mandate.”
Ms. Bost, an immunocompromised woman, stated that the union wants students and families who are more vulnerable to remote schooling to have more options. She said that teachers with special medical conditions should be paid sick or offered alternate job opportunities. Districts should continue providing contact tracing, testing, masks, and other forms of protection to prevent transmission from the community.
While only 10 states still require that masks be worn in K-12 schools, federal guidance suggests that anyone who is exposed to an outbreak, as well as all students, teachers, school staff, and any other members of the school community, should wear masks. The Omicron surge has slowed down, and Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and other states have announced plans for lifting statewide mask requirements at schools.
Friday’s new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They will outline when and where masks should be worn, social distancing and how to avoid crowded indoor spaces. Two federal officials who are familiar with the plans say the guidelines will direct counties in assessing the risk of the virus. They will consider the following measures: new Covid-related hospitalizations over the past week, percentage of Covid patients in hospital beds, and new coronavirus cases per 100,000 population over the previous week.
“Using the new framework, Maryland is in a great place,” Mr. Choudhury, the school superintendent, said Friday afternoon. “We can’t mask our kids forever. This is a good time to do it.”
Source: NY Times