Maryland’s board of education voted Thursday during a special meeting for all students, teachers and staff in the state’s 24 public school districts to wear masks while inside buildings and aboard buses.
The near-unanimous approval of the emergency declaration comes amid an uptick in Maryland’s confirmed coronavirus cases. The current number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations is 720, the highest total since May 13, according to the state health department.
No statewide mask mandate was put in place because Gov. Larry Hogan left it to the control of local school officials.
“I completely support this mask mandate,” said Kevin Bokum, the state’s student board member from Washington County. “It’s sad it even had to come all the way up here, when these local boards had the first initial authority to make the common-sense choice.”
The only board member to vote against the declaration, Gail Bates, a former Howard County teacher, said local jurisdictions should maintain control and “a one-size-fits-all” approach isn’t necessary.
“When I look at the [COVID-19] numbers, they seem to vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,” she said. “I would just prefer to keep the flexibility within the jurisdiction to do what’s best for their students and I think they would do that.”
The majority of the state’s 24 school systems implement masks requirements.
Cecil County Superintendent Jeffrey Lawson announced in a video Wednesday that all students and staff would be required to wear masks, including on school buses.
Dorchester County superintendent W. David Bromwell said in a statement Wednesday he would provide a community update Friday, but he “strongly recommend the wearing of masks as a layer of safety when present at school facilities.”
School officials in Carrol, Somerset and Worchester counties didn’t implement a mask mandate.
The state board’s declaration must now receive formal approval by the Maryland General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review.
Once the committee receives the declaration, typically electronically, it would be in effect for 10 days.
After formal approval, the regulation would remain in effect for no more than 180 days, the length of the school year for students.
The presiding officers in the legislature released statements thanking the state board for approving the mask requirement.
Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said the joint committee plans to work “expeditiously” to approve the declaration.
House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) has a message for Hogan.
“Governor Hogan has the legal authority right now to protect every Maryland child who starts school on Monday, and I urge him to use his power immediately to suspend the 10-day wait period,” Jones said. “Our children can’t wait.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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