BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland students will continue to wear masks for the time being in public schools.
The current mask mandate is set to expire Feb. 25, but the Maryland State Board of Education wants school officials to give local school systems so-called “off-ramps,” or metrics to meet, to lift those mandates.READ MORE: Hundreds Of COVID-19 Tests Thrown Out From Ripken Stadium After Lab Shuts Down Over Outbreak
“No single school should have to close down because of COVID, quarantines should be minimized,” said Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury. “It’s time to think about off-ramps.”
He said the top priority should remain keeping kids in school, but it’s time to consider ways the mask mandate can be lifted.
“We can’t mask our children forever, however, we do know masking does play a role in helping our children safe,” said Choudhury.
A nearly five-hour meeting last month brought perspectives from both sides.
“Now that we have these life-saving vaccines that not only reduce the risk of disease in the vaccine recipient, but also reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to someone else, it’s really time to think about removing a medical intervention,” said Dr. Lucy McBride. “Kids are generally at low risk.”
Some parents believe it’s time to take the masks off.
Parent, Margaret Barnes, told the board, “It doesn’t matter how many degrees someone has, what their expertise is in medical matters, they are still not qualified to determine what is best for our children.”READ MORE: Maryland Weather: Nor'Easter Snowstorm Arrives
“It’s been long enough,” said parent Brittany Hammerbacher. “My son absolutely hates wearing his mask. I can understand at first when it was like a big threat around, but a lot of people are vaccinated now, children are vaccinated, and I think it’s time they let loose on it.”
The state’s school board Wednesday asked school officials to create metrics local systems can meet to lift such the mandate in their district.
“It really charges MDSE [Maryland State Department of Education] to create some reasonable off-ramps that we can discuss and debate,” said board member Rachel McCusker.
“I really feel like these decisions are local,” said board member Warner Sumpter.
“I don’t think anybody wants face coverings,” said board chair Clarence Crawford. “I don’t think anybody clearly did not to be involved in the regulation business.”
Many pointed to the power of the COVID vaccines and community transmission rates as potential metrics to meet to lift the mandate.
“We believe that an off-ramp was developed, it should include our vaccination rates in our community in some way,” said Choudhury.
“I don’t want us necessarily to be seen as going through a backdoor to mandate vaccines for children,” said board member Joan Mele-McCarthy.MORE NEWS: 'I Am Innocent': Marilyn Mosby Talks To Churchgoers About Federal Charges
The school board meets again Dec. 7, but it’s unclear whether they will debate those metrics then or call another special meeting.