State Board of Education Approves Off Ramps for Masking in Schools

The State Board of Education voted to approve emergency regulations to allow for off-ramps for masking in school facilities.

This morning, the State Board met virtually to consider a number of topics, with updates to the State’s COVID-19 mitigation policies front-and-center.

With only one member voting in opposition, the Board recommended a new set of emergency regulations that keep masks in schools, but provides several pathways for local education agencies (LEAs) to reverse the mandate.

The recommended regulations stipulate off ramps via three pathways:

  • At the individual school-level, for which a school would have to reach 85% of staff and students to be vaccinated;
  • At the jurisdiction-level, for which the county would have to reach 80% or above vaccination, at which time the county board of education could move to lift masks in schools; and
  • Based on transmission rates: should a jurisdiction not meet requirements for vaccination, but transmission data shows the county is at a low-risk, the county superintendent could move to lift masks.

Notably, the proposed regulations extend masking exemptions to beyond students actively participating in sports to include live theatre and musical performances as well.

At its December 1 meeting, the Board asked the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to draft a new set of emergency regulations that would allow local jurisdictions to  loosen masking requirements based on transmission and vaccination rates.

Before the Board considered the new emergency regulations, Assistant Superintendent Mary Gable presented on current COVID policies enacted by LEAs, including whether or not they require testing and/or vaccination for educators and staff.

The Board also considered transmission and quarantine data at the county and LEA levels before voting on the regulations.

The approved set of emergency regulations has a 180 day cap, at which time, or before, the Board and MSDE can revisit them based on evolving COVID data.

The regulations now go to the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Regulations (AELR) for approval. Today’s emergency regulations, if approved by AELR, will replace a current policy, passed and adopted in September that requires masks to be worn in all public school facilities, with no local exceptions or off ramps.

Stay tuned to the Conduit Street Blog for future coverage on masking in schools.

Video of the December 1 meeting is available online.

Access the meeting agenda and materials.

Prior Conduit Street coverage on masking in schools: