October 23, 2021

Committee hands down mask mandate for public schools

Students, employees and visitors to public schools around Maryland are now required to wear masks.

In a 10-7 Tuesday afternoon vote of the Maryland Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review, a mask mandate for all public schools went into effect following more than two hours of public input on the issue.

Parents, teachers and education leaders around the state made their voices heard, with some in favor of the mask mandate to keep students in the classroom and others arguing the mandate was politically motivated to receive more federal money in the future.

Before the vote was handed down, 20 of 24 Maryland school districts had mask mandates already in place by decisions of the local school boards. Only Carroll, Dorchester, Somerset and Worcester counties lacked masking policies.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, questions ranged from student to teacher safety to COVID-19 numbers spiking and falling, with Clarence Crawford, president of the Board of Education saying the mandate would be reexamined monthly.

“If the situation merits a significant change, we will not be reluctant to make the changes,” Crawford said. “Things change. That’s why we are going to monitor. That’s why we’re going to be reasonable.”

Mohammed Choudhury, state superintendent of schools, discussed COVID-19 protocols and strategies in the classroom and ensuring members of the committee that students would be permitted mask breaks.

“No child will have to sit for eight hours, or four hours, straight with a mask,” Choudhury said. “There will be mask breaks, students can go outside to do learning if space is available. The day itself, the way the school systems are designed, there is no way a child will wear a mask without a break.”

Choudhury told the committee that if a “student gets COVID-19 and is in a classroom, those students close by will not have to quarantine if everyone is masked.”

He went on to declare the “state is also exploring rapid testing for a ‘test and stay’ approach to avoid unnecessary quarantine for students.”

The committee’s decision comes after the Maryland State Board of Education adopted an emergency regulation instituting mandatory masking in public schools in late August.

This article was originally posted on Committee hands down mask mandate for public schools