The following was shared by the Howard County Public School System on February 22nd:
Earlier today, Feb. 22, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) voted to rescind COMAR 13A.01.07 Face Coverings in School Facilities and return masking requirements to local control, pending approval by the Maryland General Assembly’s Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review (AELR) committee. This decision comes on the heels of the Howard County Executive’s decision to lift the countywide mask mandate for most Howard County Government buildings. In addition, earlier today, Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer shared encouraging information that the recent improvement in metrics would allow for further relaxation of masking policies.
Following approval by the AELR committee, HCPSS will no longer require universal masking in our buildings, and additional details will be shared at that time. Until that time, the HCPSS universal indoor masking requirement remains in place. As changes are made, the HCPSS website will be updated accordingly. As changes are made, the HCPSS website will be updated accordingly.
As a reminder, students and staff should continue to perform a health check every day before entering HCPSS buildings. No staff or student should go to schools or offices if they are experiencing symptoms associated with any communicable disease, including COVID-19.
OK…did anyone else read this update and go…wait, what? So the school system says that they will “no longer require universal masking in our buildings” after the approval to rescind COMAR 13A.01.07 by the AELR committee.
The same school system that was advocating NOT to remove the mask mandate until it hits the metric for off-ramp #3 (back on February 10th)
“It is recommended that the Board of Education endorse Off-Ramp Option 3 which enables the Superintendent to lift the mask mandate once Howard County can sustain 14 consecutive days of moderate or low transmission rate of COVID-19.”
The same school system that could choose to remove masks today because they are one of a very few school systems that have met off-ramp #1 (“the Board could lift the requirement because Howard County currently qualifies for the first off-ramp as over 80% of residents have received the primary series of the vaccine”) and could choose to make masks optional now (similar to what Anne Arundel County Schools has done).
The confusing part is that the school system could act right now on this issue and make masks optional. I am not sure why they would wait for the AELR committee to make their decision in order to act on this issue if they are committed to this action (making mask optional for staff and students).
While the messaging is confusing…for those advocating for mask optional, this recent message from HCPSS is good news as there appears to be a light at the end of this tunnel.
It was reported that the AELR (a panel of lawmakers in Annapolis) will hold a public hearing and then a vote this Friday, regarding the school mask mandate.
Hopefully all goes smoothly with the meeting on Friday and maybe come March 1st mask optional will become a reality for all school systems across the state (that choose to go that route).
This is one of those topics I will continue to cover for the Blog readers as it progresses.