By Stetson Miller

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s back to school this week for many students in the Baltimore area. While most are excited to head back to class, some are nervous as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers on.

Dozens of students got some last-minute school supplies Sunday at backpack giveaways in West Baltimore and Owings Mills. It’s a moment parents and students alike have been looking forward to, but some are still anxious about a return to class amid the pandemic, with new case counts still averaging about 1,000 a day in Maryland.

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“I’m really nervous that they’ll end up doing virtual (learning) again,” said parent Ieishia Henriques. “I don’t see how long this is going to last but so far, I mean, you know, it’s worth a try.”

Masks are required in most of the state’s 24 public school systems, including in Baltimore City and Baltimore and Howard counties. That’s in line with the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s an action many districts have taken to try to safely reopen schools and let students experience some long-awaited normalcy.

“More kids work better in the environment with other kids than being in the house, so if it makes it better for them then I’m for it,” said parent Lunnell Wynn. “My kids are vaccinated, so I feel pretty good.”

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While the state board of education this past week voted to approve an emergency regulation mandating masks in public school buildings, that regulation still needs to be voted on by a General Assembly panel.

For now, many parents said they are hoping that their kids can stay in school and stay healthy.

“Health and safety is absolutely number one,” said parent Lisa Lee. “But we’re pushing and praying we don’t have to home-school.”

Some districts, including Harford, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties, don’t start school until Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day. Unless and until the statewide mandate is approved, masks will remain optional in Carroll County.

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The General Assembly panel is set to vote Sept. 14.

Stetson Miller