BALTIMORE, Md. — A new school year in a new building represents a new beginning for Rachel Arrana when students start classes at Graceland Park-O’Donnell Heights Middle School on August 30th, but it comes with its share of COVID-19 safeguards.
“I feel more comfortable with people wearing masks actually,” said Arrana. “Even though I’m fully vaccinated, I like my mask and I feel more protected.”
The need for everyone to wear masks indoors is supported by U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
“We know that going back means more than just opening up the doors and turning on the lights,” said the secretary.
Cardona visited the school on Wednesday with a message that health and safety are the top priority as in-person classes resume.
“If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, do it now,” said Cardona. “This is our number one line of defense and I encourage every student, age 12 and over, to get vaccinated as they head back to school.”
But Cardona made no mention of mandating vaccines for students or teachers for that matter, as many people who work for hospitals, the federal government and private companies are facing such requirements or daily or weekly testing for the virus.
“It’s very tricky right now,” said Assistant Principal Mary Ancinec. “The science---it seems to be shifting. There’s lots of different messaging so I’m glad that he addressed some of it and I’m just looking forward to finding out more about what direction we’re taking, because school is right around the corner.”
For now, it appears the education department’s so-called ‘roadmap’ will do little more than echo whatever guidance the CDC can offer, and local school systems will have to plot their own course to safely return to the classroom.