BALTIMORE, Md. (WDVM) — In many counties across the state of Maryland, the first day of school has come and gone. For others, students will return to the classroom in a matter of days. The issue of mandatory masks in Maryland Public Schools has reached the State Board of Education.
Counties across the state remain divided on whether to require masks in the classroom. The topic took a front seat at the monthly state Board of Education meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday.
In the state of Maryland, 8 out of 23 counties do not require masks in schools. Those counties are Caroline, Carroll, Dorchester, Garrett, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties. Every other county requires masks in their buildings and on the bus regardless of vaccination status.
But as COVID case numbers continue to rise, the state Board of Education discussed whether the superintendent has the authority to block a proposed plan submitted by a school board that does not require masks in their buildings. During the meeting, Maryland State School Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury questioned whether he would face legal action if he denied a school district’s plan of the implementation of funding from the American Rescue Plan for the upcoming year if it did not include mandatory masks.
Choudhury explained the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund review plan is designed to “remediate, accelerate, and support coming out of pandemic and going into school year.” However, he also highlighted that the plan could also work alongside the proposed expert review team to help identify where kids are struggling within the Maryland Public School system.
Governor Larry Hogan has said many times that he will leave the decision of mandating masks in schools up to the local school boards.
State Superintendent Choudhury has another idea, one that would sidestep previous statements from the governor.
“I have been very clear all school systems should start the school year with masking,” Choudhury stated during Tuesday’s meeting. “It is easier to not quarantine masked children and based on the CDC guidance to when you mask, it is very clear.”
A universal mask mandate has also been backed by members of the Maryland State Senate. Senate President Bill Ferguson took to Twitter to announce a letter that was sent to the State Board of Education which was signed by over 30 State Senators.
The Maryland State Board of Education will hold a public meeting Thursday to discuss the implementation of a universal mask mandate.