The Maryland State Board of Education voted 12–1 to approve a regulation that extends the requirement for children and staff members in schools to don masks.
But the regulation (pdf) also says superintendents can lift the requirements for schools if 80 percent of the students and staff are fully vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19, or local school boards can rescind it if the county in which a school is located has at least 80 percent of its population fully vaccinated.
If neither threshold is met, officials can also lift the mandate if the county has 14 consecutive days of moderate or low transmission of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CCP virus causes COVID-19.
“It provides a way forward that does give off-ramps,” Lori Morow, the parent representative on the board, told colleagues.
Retired Brig. Gen. Warner Sumpter, the only member who voted no, said he opposed the regulation because he felt it took control from local jurisdictions.
“I know we want to do what’s right for the children, but at the same time we’re taking away the vote from the local boards who are talking to the parents who elect these board members,” Sumpter said.
No county in the state has low or moderate transmission as of Dec. 3, board members were told during the meeting.
Some counties have reported around nine in 10 staff members getting vaccinated, but student vaccination numbers are lower. Added up, no districts have met the vaccination threshold, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said she supported the regulation.
No schools or districts can lift masking requirements unless the regulation is approved by the General Assembly.
Clarence Crawford, the state school board president, told the paper that lawmakers are unlikely to vote on the regulation until January.
Maryland’s legislature is controlled by Democrats, but Republican Larry Hogan is the state’s governor.
The regulation will be in effect for 180 days. It could potentially be in effect until June 20, 2023, if it is later approved as a standard regulation.
Hogan recently signaled support for the board’s regulation.