DC area parents still question mask-wearing policies weeks before in-person school begins

As most kids in the DMV move closer to going back to in-person school next month, many parents still want to know: What are the plans for masks?

Given that Montgomery County Public Schools are a little over a month away from re-opening, the school district has not made any decisions about wearing a mask optional.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that children who are 12-years-old and older and are vaccinated can go to school without having to wear a mask.

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This week, Montgomery County Health officer, Dr. Travis Gayles said that, unvaccinated students and staff should wear masks in the fall —which is consistent with the CDC’s recently released guidelines.

Gayles said that he will provide advice to MCPS, but the decision about mask requirements is up to school district leaders.

Thursday, during a live, virtual Board of Education meeting, while board members did not touch on masks, many parents who provided a taped testimony, talked about their take on MCPS students, vaccinated or not and them having to continue to wear a mask. 

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"We must keep vulnerable children and their families safe with comprehensive mitigation strategies," said MCPS parent, Ashwin Dharmadhikari during the testimony. "Until they can get vaccinated, it is critical for elementary students to continue to wear masks indoors in schools."

"I do think we should continue to be safe and monitor the data, but for kids even if they’re not vaccinated and if no one around them has Covid, they will not get Covid," said Kara McNulty, another MCPS parent, while speaking with Fox 5’s Ayesha Khan. 

"If we let vaccinated students go unmasked then how will that be implemented?" MCPS parent, Margery Smellinson told Khan.

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"Is it going to be just an honor system or are we going to have to register our vaccination status? If we do decide to keep masking as a requirement then what defines the endpoints for these interventions? There is no guarantee that we will have vaccine approval for elementary school children."

MCPS spokesperson, Gboyinde Onijala said the mask-wearing policy topic could come up at the BOE’s next meeting scheduled for July 27. 

The BOE is expected to meet one last time on Aug. 24 before school begins on Aug. 30.