BERLIN — In a 12-2 vote, the Maryland State Board of Education ordered the Maryland State Department of Education to create an emergency regulation to draft masking “off ramps” for state public schools.
“We can’t mask our children forever … I believe we can update our regs in a way that provides an off ramp for our communities based on where they are at with vaccination rates … very important in all this is no single school should have to close because of COVID and quarantine should continue to be minimized – I don’t want to compromise on those as we move forward … The goal is create an off ramp,” said MSDE Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury.
Once the state department presents the regulations, the board will vote on the regulations at a future meeting. When the emergency regulations are reviewed and approved, then local jurisdictions will be able to opt out of the state mandate under the outlined guidelines, which may be tied to vaccination rates and transmission rates as is being done in other states. The state’s masking mandate for schools expires in February.
Until the regulations are reviewed and approved, the state’s mask mandate continues for now.
For the board’s edification, Choudhury reviewed a couple other states’ approaches to masking rules. He said Nevada is using the CDC transmission metric where any jurisdiction lower than “substantial” transmission spread can lift the mask mandate. Additionally, he said Massachusetts is tying masking to vaccination rates of individual schools; schools with 80% vaccination rate of staff and students can choose to lift masks if they wish. Anyone not vaccinated would need to mask.
On local control, a subject discussed several times during the meeting, School Board President Clarence Crawford said, “I have no problem with local control but there needs to be a match of local control with accountability and responsibility. I am all in favor local control. I don’t think anyone wants face coverings … but sometimes in leadership you have to do what is necessary, not what you would like to do.”