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Face coverings required inside all county public schools

by Judith Hruz


Students, teachers, staff and everyone else who enters a county public school are required to wear a face covering.

The Montgomery County Board of Education on July 27 voted unanimously to require masks regardless of whether a person is vaccinated against COVID-19 or not.

The same day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added to its guidance a recommendation of universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

According to county school board members, face coverings are required inside Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) buildings and on school buses. That decision aligns with the current practice for students attending summer school and the state’s requirement for public transportation, school officials said.

Face coverings are not required outdoors, but strongly recommended for those who are not vaccinated, school officials said.

Because vaccinations are not yet approved for children under age 12, many students are not qualified to be inoculated.

“This is about our community together and making the best decision for keeping everyone safe,” said Dr. Monifa McKnight, acting superintended of MCPS.

The school board’s decision will be revisited regularly, she said.

In a letter to the MCPS community on its website, the Board of Education said its decision aligns with the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as local health officials.

Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, listened to the virtual discussion of the school board during its meeting July 27. He applauded the board for its decision.

At press time, the county had not taken any action on reinstituting mandatory wearing of masks or other guidelines.

During a media briefing on July 28, Gayles said county officials are watching the number of cases, hospitalizations and other factors and “not necessarily wait for numbers to reach alarming thresholds” before taking action.


Back to ‘normal’


    According to school officials, all schools will return to their pre-COVID schedules, including bell times, bus schedules, number and length of class periods per day, lunch and recess.

Schools will be open at 100 percent capacity five days a week this fall.

Roscoe Nix and Arcola elementary schools, the district’s Innovative Calendar schools, started their school year on July 12.

Those schools have a 210-day school year, with 30 additional days of instruction.

    All meals will be provided free of charge during the 2021-2022 school year, the school system reported. MCPS will continue to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner meals to all students in schools and at designated food distribution sites.

The first day of school for the 2021-2022 school year is Aug. 30.


Difficult decisions


In a news briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, said the change in the agency’s guidance comes after new evidence showed the delta variant of COVID-19 was more transmissible than previously understood.

In addition to the recommendation to wear masks in schools, the CDC:

Added a recommendation for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission;

Added information that fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated; and

Added a recommendation for fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to be tested three to five days after exposure, and to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.


    For more on Montgomery County Public Schools, visit www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org.

    For more on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visit www.cdc.gov.


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