Frederick County schools announce school mask changes as confusion looms across the region

Effective Monday, June 21, 2021, a Frederick County Public Schools spokesperson told FOX 5, face coverings are optional for staff -- only when students are not present in the building. The change comes as confusion looms over what different school districts are planning for indoor mask requirements come Fall 2021.

READ MORE: Masks now optional in Fauquier County public schools for some activities

In addition to the Monday change: "Effective Thursday, July 1, 2021, face coverings are optional for all Frederick County schools staff and students, in accordance with Governor Hogan's Executive Order 21-06-15-01. Wearing a face covering remains a requirement when students are on the bus as outlined in section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 264). If there are changes to these directives and order, supplemental guidance will be shared," Read a directive sent to FOX 5 by an Frederick County schools spokesperson.

In other parts of the state, school officials from Montgomery, Prince George’s and Charles Counties tell FOX 5 no official determination has been made yet with regard to whether masks will be required in school buildings when staff and students return in the fall.

"We are reaching out to the Maryland Department of Health and the County DHHS for any updated guidance/recommendations. At this time, we are requiring masks to be work indoors for students participating in our summer programs," wrote MCPS’ spokesperson in an email.

READ MORE: Arlington County softball dad takes on schools system over sport mask mandates

A Prince George’s County School Spokesperson told FOX 5 we could learn more in the next month.

Opinions on how to handle face coverings within school buildings vary parent-to-parent, guardian-to-guardian.

"The science says that if you’re vaccinated, you’re protected and you’re very unlikely to get seriously ill. And so I think if you’ve taken the step or you’ve gotten fully vaccinated, then you shouldn’t have to wear a mask," said a Fairfax County parent with two children in Virginia’s largest public school system.

In Montgomery County, a dad told FOX 5, "My view is that if you don’t require masks it’s as good as nobody wearing them because one of the ways that this spreads is by asymptomatic children or adults."

Johns Hopkins University Epidemiologist Dr. David Dowdy told FOX 5 on Monday, waiting until the Fall to make the indoor mask requirement decision may not be such a bad thing.

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"If we’re in a situation where the number of cases is higher, than it is important to realize that it’s going to be hard to verify which students are vaccinated or not. There are issues of like – if kids look around and they see certain of their kids not wearing masks, there’s going to be a lot of social pressure for them to wear their masks too …," said Dr. Dowdy in a recorded phone interview.

The JHU epidemiologist told FOX 5 if cases remain low, he would agree it would be safe for those fully vaccinated to not wear masks inside schools. However Dowdy still referred to this as a "rapidly developing" situation.

"If you’re a parent and your child has been vaccinated, unless we’re dealing with a variant that seems to be escaping the vaccine, and we haven’t’ really seen those yet, but we could and probably would in some point in the future, you don’t need to – it’s not your child you have to be worried about. It’s more about your child’s friend, right, who may for example be immune compromised or may not be vaccinated and may have  parent or a family member who’s at risk, right? And so if your child has been vaccinated, you can feel safe as far as your child is concerned. But the schools have to think not just about your child but all the kids in the classroom," Dowdy added.

When looking at the metrics, Dowdy said checking for increases in the cases per 100,000 people is important. He also made a point to say there still needs to be robust testing to properly measure the percent positivity rate.

"I know that a lot of the teachers have been vaccinated so still a lot we don’t know. So I would think at least the start of the year with masks," said a different Montgomery County father. A babysitter in the same park as the father who wants a school mask mandate for the fall, told FOX 5, "Let them if they want to but honestly, I don’t think the kids are at a huge risk factor. I think that the smiles, and you know, like kids being able to see their teachers’ emotions and all those things are like, very important."

DCPS confirmed earlier in June, masks will be required indoors for Fall 2021

Last week, FOX 5 reported Fairfax County Public Schools would require face coverings indoors for all - and outdoors on campus for those who are not fully vaccinated. 

Arlington Public Schools is also requiring masks be worn indoors come Fall 2021 – but not for recess outdoors.