The Maryland State Board of Education has voted to maintain a mask mandate with consideration of an “off-ramp” for school districts.
The board’s vote was 12-2. The present emergency mandate ends on Feb. 25.
During the discussion, board members pondered what coronavirus metrics should be applied in a new mandate and whether school districts should be given more authority over mask policies.
State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury said board members should keep in mind two key points in coming up with a final decision: “No single school should have to close down because of COVID” and quarantines should be minimized, WTOP reported.
Board member Warner Sumpter favored local school districts deciding on mask mandates. State Board President Clarence Crawford agreed with him but said, “I think when you talk about local control, there’s an equally important component, which is accountability and responsibility for decisions,” WTOP reported.
Dr. Holly Wilcox said county vaccination rates should be used as the primary metric for instituting a mask mandate on the local level while Jean Halle wanted to know if “natural immunity” to the coronavirus due to prior illness will be considered.
Choudhury, in response to Halle, said he could not respond to “natural immunity” though he acknowledged it was a “hot topic.”
The board agreed to ask the Maryland Department of Education to suggest coronavirus metrics to consider for a new mandate. A Dec. 7 board meeting is set and the issue may come up again, WTOP reported.
While the board met, Gov. Larry Hogan held an unrelated news conference at which he was asked about the mask mandate in schools. The governor replied he saw no reason to change the policy.