Here’s How Districts Are Addressing COVID-19 this School Year

Only Prince George’s County is requiring masking in all public schools to start the 2022-2023 school year, while testing and quarantine policies vary by district.

As students across Maryland return to in-person classrooms in the coming weeks, each school district seems to have a different approach to COVID-19 mitigation.

In late July, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) released updated guidance to Support Safe In-Person Operations for PreK-12 Schools. Individual school districts had to submit plans for the upcoming school year to the Department by August 15. MSDE says it will review the reopening plans every six months.

In light of varying levels of COVID-19 BA.5 variant transmission and updated CDC guidance, each school district appears to be approaching the 2022-2023 school year with different, cautiously optimistic policies. Notably, the updated CDC guidance de-emphasizes quarantining and distancing in schools, while continuing ask those testing positive to remain out of school facilities for at least five days.

The Baltimore Sun summarized regional plans:

But in Baltimore and surrounding counties, schools won’t require any kind of masks, at least not to start the school year. Most don’t plan to screen for cases and won’t send students home to quarantine, moves based on federal and state guidance that aim to keep more kids learning at their desks.

Here’s how some districts are starting the school year

  • In a last minute policy update in response to elevated positive cases, Prince George’s County is requiring masking inside all public school facilities. Prior, the district said it would make masking voluntary;
  • Baltimore City and most surrounding districts will not require masks to start the school year, however, Baltimore City is the only jurisdiction that plans to regularly screen randomly asymptomatic staff and students every-other-weed (previously, the district did so weekly);
  • Anne Arundel County, on the other hand, will not regularly test in-school, but will send sick kids and staff home;
  • Baltimore County schools will end a contact tracing and screening program after data collected last year “did not show a significant value,” and the county will only require masking after sick students return from a five-day isolation period;
  • Howard County will not require masks nor provide testing in schools, and close contacts of a positive case can remain in-school regardless of vaccination status, but those who test positive will have to remain out sick for at least five days;
  • Carroll County will not start the school year with required masking, but will consider changes to its policy on a “case-by-case basis” in consultation with the Carroll County Health Department; and

  • Harford County school buildings will be mask-optional, but the district will provide diagnostic testing in all schools for students and staff who fall ill during the school day.

The Baltimore Sun noted that at least some decision making around COVID policies was influenced by cost:

At least some of the reductions of preventive measures were due to their costs. The Maryland Department of Health reports it has just $8.8 million of its federal testing dollars left uncommitted out of $182 million it was granted last year. Area school systems have until the end of September to apply for funding.

State education and health officials plan to distribute rapid tests to the schools that request them ahead of classes starting later this month.

Learn more about MSDE’s school reopening guidance.

Read the full Baltimore Sun article.

Close Menu
%d bloggers like this: