Balt. Co. school officials explain mask rules for fall, sports

Teachers union calling for masks to be worn at all times in school
Posted at 5:17 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 17:22:46-04

TOWSON, Md (WMAR) — Days after announcing universal masking in schools, the Baltimore County Board of Education held a special virtual meeting Tuesday morning to go over what the requirement means.

School officials predict Baltimore County will have substantial COVID-19 transmission by the middle of the month so they are requiring masks inside regardless of vaccination status this fall.

"The last thing we wanna do is close school because we wanna push more in-person learning as we open up our school year," said Superintendent Dr. Darryl Williams.

School officials told members of the board that masking will help keep students in the class room, because with masks and 3 feet of social distancing, no quarantine will be required even if a classmate tests positive.

"That’s been an important factor that we’ve considered in terms of minimizing the number of students who are exposed and at risk of catching COVID but also required to miss school because of a positive classmate," said Deb Somerville, from the BCPS Office of Health Services.

Masks will not be required for students who are on the field participating in sports but will be required for everyone on the sidelines.

"We are looking at other ways to strengthen screening for our indoor sports so we have less risk of those sports being interrupted and of transmission," said Somerville.

In addition to masking, there will be strict contact tracing and daily building cleanings. BCPS is also exploring how to track staff vaccinations, and in the meantime working to get screening test kits from state and federal partners to offer to unvaccinated staff.

"We would be asking them to test themselves each Sunday or Monday morning and so that program would be voluntary," said Somerville.

School officials said they want the county to have low transmission in order to stop universal masking.

They also addressed the increase in Virtual Learning Program requests despite the deadline being passed. They said they are unable to accommodate more students and they set the deadline so they could make staffing plans for the fall. Parents who have concerns about their kids returning in person should reach out to their school to receive supports.