Maryland takes step to end school mask mandate and let school systems decide

Tyrisha Bailey , Editor

Maryland’s 24 school systems could soon be relieved of the state’s mask mandate and left to decide for themselves whether to require face coverings in schools.

State leaders took the first step toward local control of masking at schools during a meeting Tuesday of the Maryland State Board of Education, where members voted 12 to 2 for a measure that would start to move in that direction. Scientists are still studying its level of contagiousness and virulence. The Maryland measure calls for the drafting of emergency regulations that would create “off ramps” from the mask mandate based on certain local conditions, such as vaccination rates or transmission rates.

The state board will meet again next week to flesh out details, and the measure needs approval from a General Assembly committee. If it prevails, school systems that met requirements could decide to end mandatory masking or keep it in place. In the D.C. region, the districts in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have not expressed interest in ending mask requirements. But in some other parts of the state  particularly Carroll County, northwest of Baltimore, some parents and local officials want to lift the mandate.

Maryland education officials have repeatedly said the primary goal for this school year is a safe return to in-person learning with minimal disruption. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends indoor mask use at schools for students and staff, regardless of vaccination status.