BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The debate continues on mandating universal masking in schools.

With younger students under the age of 12 still unable to get vaccinated and many returning back to the classrooms next week, some concerned parents say time is running out and it’s up to the Maryland Department of Education to leverage its power to keep students safe.

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“Please, we’re begging you…protect our children, protect our students, protect their families and our communities,” said Raven Bishop, parent of Queen Anne’s County Public School student. “I am terrified to send my child back to school.”

An urgent plea to enforce universal masking in schools. Tuesday, at the state Board of Education meeting, parents and the teachers union called on top school officials to take additional steps to protect students and staff in the classroom.

“We have school systems who have started school and already students and educators are being quarantined and sent out of classes,” said Cheryl Bost, president of Maryland State Education Association. “So we’re asking you to enact your emergency powers to put a regulation to ask for a mask mandate,”

Right now, the Maryland Department of Education is strongly recommending local school districts to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status — in line with the CDC guidance.

Most of Maryland’s 24 school districts are following the guidance and mandating masks but a few, including Carroll County, are making it a choice, which has some parents concerned.

“I am deeply troubled by my school boards’ decision to make masking options this school year,” said Kathy Hillock, parent of Carroll County School student.

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Superintendent of Maryland State Schools, Mohammed Choudhury, said they do not have the legal authority to order students and staff to wear masks in schools, noting the authority rests with state officials and local school boards.

“So that’s the challenge here. I’m doing everything I can to do look at what that means in terms of policy and legally as well,” said Choudhury.

Choudhury did not hesitate to mention the board has the option to pursue an emergency regulation on universal masking.

“There is also another pathway. There is an emergency regulation that the board can pursue and that is up to you guys to consider, but I will say it right now, the superintendent supports that pathway if you want to do that,” said Choudhury.

In Baltimore City, Nadia Robinson said she’s fully vaccinated and eager to start school in-person, masked up.

“Definitely the social part, like seeing friends and stuff. I think that’s the most exciting part about going back,” said Nadia Robinson

It’s a move Robinson’s mother strongly supports.

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“We have things in place to try to mitigate it as much as possible,” said Kelley Robinson. “We got to get back to school, kids have got to get back to school.”