Masks in schools: Maryland Board of Education moves toward 'off ramps' to lift masking

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Soon, masks might not be required in some Maryland public schools.

On Wednesday, the Maryland State Board of Education voted to bring forward an emergency regulation that would provide "off ramps" to the state mask mandate.

The off ramps would allow districts to make face coverings optional if their counties meet certain requirements. These requirements could be based on coronavirus transmission rates, vaccination rates or a mix of both.

The board passed the motion in a 12-2 vote.

The motion instructs the Maryland State Department of Education to create an emergency regulation that includes off ramps. After the regulation is developed, the state board will vote on it.

Worcester County public schools will bring back all students for in-person learning beginning March 8.
Worcester County public schools will bring back all students for in-person learning beginning March 8.

The regulation will have a maximum life of 180 days. Further details regarding the regulation, including when it will take effect, will be determined at a future date.

State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury voiced support for the off ramps.

"I believe that we can update our (regulations) that allows for us to off ramp our communities based on where they're at," Choudhury said.

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Maryland currently mandates masks inside all public schools.

The board passed the 180-day mandate in August, overturning the decisions of several local jurisdictions. A joint legislative committee voted to uphold the mandate in a split vote.

Before the board passed the Dec. 1 motion, board member Shawn Bartley proposed an amendment that stated if transmission or positivity rates have not increased among students, the current emergency regulation would expire and the new proposed regulation would not take effect.

This amendment did not pass, receiving a 10-4 vote.

Last month, Maryland revised its K-12 coronavirus guidelines. Revisions included the option for schools to modify their quarantine protocols to allow some coronavirus-exposed students to attend school.

Wicomico County currently reports a high level of community transmission, while Somerset and Worcester counties report a substantial level.

Washington County in Western Maryland has a high level of community transmission.

Maddie Aiken covers education for Delmarva Now/The Daily Times. Have a story tip or idea? Send it her way at maiken@delmarvanow.com or on Twitter @madsaiken.

This article originally appeared on Salisbury Daily Times: Maryland school mask mandates: State board calls for off ramps

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