MARYLAND (FOX 5 DC) - Governor Larry Hogan is calling on the Maryland State Board of Education to rescind its school mask policy, citing the state’s health metrics and vaccine availability for school-age children.
"A growing number of medical professionals, parents, and bipartisan state officials throughout the nation are calling for an end to school mask requirements," writes Governor Hogan. "In light of dramatic improvements to our health metrics and the widespread availability of vaccines, I am calling on you to take action to rescind this policy."
The state board of education responded to Hogan's request on Friday, saying they will not immediately lift the mask mandate for students.
"At each monthly meeting, the State Board reviews current COVID-19 metrics in the State to assess the need for the continuation of the regulation," the response reads. "Our commitment has not changed, and we look forward to reviewing the latest data and health guidance at the State Board meeting on February 22, 2022. As you know, the State Board has and continues to rely upon science, research, and guidance from public health experts, including the CDC and the Maryland Department of Health in its efforts to ensure schools remain safely open. Again, we deeply appreciate your strong leadership and support throughout this once in a century pandemic. We, too, share your desire not to let this pandemic distract us from aggressively addressing the learning loss and social emotional harm this pandemic has done to our children."
The response also outlines when and how local superintendents and school boards would be able to lift the mask requirement saying:
- A local board of education may lift the face covering requirement in a public meeting if at least 80 percent of the county population in the county where the schools are located is fully vaccinated, as reported by the Maryland Department of Health
- The local superintendent may lift the face covering requirement for a school facility or facilities after a principal or designated school official verifies that 80 percent of the school staff and students in the school facility have been fully vaccinated
- The local superintendent may lift the face covering requirement in schools if the county has sustained 14 consecutive days of moderate or low transmission rate of COVID-19 cases, as reported by the CDC
Gov. Hogan's call comes on the heels of the Virginia Senate passing legislation that would ban public school systems from imposing mask requirements on students. The house is expected to advance it to Gov. Glenn Youngkin for his signature.
Youngkin is cheering on the legislation, which emerged in the Senate earlier this week. He called the Senate vote a win for students across Virginia.
In his letter, Gov. Hogan says Maryland continues to report declines in key COVID-19 metrics and the state is one of the most vaccinated in the country, including vaccinating children at a rate above the national average.
"I applaud you for your efforts to support in-person instruction and your emphasis on social-emotional health," Gov. Hogan writes. "Now, it is critical to move toward normalcy for students and families by rescinding the school masking policy that was adopted by the State Board of Education in Dec. 2021, and enacted by the Maryland General Assembly's Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review Committee (AELR). We must all learn to live with this virus, not in fear of it."
Read the governor's letter in full here.