Last night, the Frederick County Board of Education of voted to encourage face coverings but no longer require them inside all school buildings effective Friday, Feb. 25. Face coverings remain mandatory on school buses due to a federal mandate.
In a letter to the community, this was referred to as a “significant change fand a major step towards normalcy.”
Many questions are answered below, per the letter:
This year, face coverings have been required inside school buildings due to a mandate from the Maryland State Board of Education (MSBE). At its Feb. 22 meeting, MSBE allowed local school boards to adopt their own face covering policies.
School districts can make face coverings optional if at least 80 percent of the county’s population ages 5 and older are fully vaccinated per the Maryland Department of Health. In Frederick County, we have reached that threshold with 80.4% of eligible county residents ages five and above fully vaccinated.
With local COVID-19 case counts in rapid decline for more than a month, the Board voted to make face coverings encouraged but no longer required.
Does this mean face coverings will go away?
No. Health experts encourage face coverings as a mitigation strategy against COVID-19. FCPS is still welcoming mask use to minimize COVID-19 spread throughout the community. But this will be an individual family decision, with a few exceptions:
- Due to a federal mandate, face coverings will still be required on school buses for all drivers and riders.
- Individuals returning from isolation will also be required to wear face coverings from the sixth through the 10th day after their symptoms first appeared. Mask requirements when returning from isolation will be posted on FCPS.org later this week.
- In school health rooms or any clinical health setting where the CDC and other health guidance require all individuals to be masked.
What mitigation measures will still be in place?
Weekly COVID-19 screening messages will continued to be shared weekly via One Call Now and Schoology.
Isolation and exclusion of individuals with primary COVID-19 symptoms and those who test positive for COVID-19.
Implementation of applicable ASHRAE ventilation recommendations.
Use of air purifiers in all classrooms and school health rooms.
Continued emphasis on hand washing and sanitizing.
Continued use of cleaning products and protocols that are best practice for reducing transmission of communicable diseases including COVID-19.
Will contact tracing continue?
Case investigation and contact tracing will no longer be feasible by school staff following the lifting of the mask mandate.
Even so, contact tracing outside of schools will continue to be conducted by public health entities.
Individuals will still be expected to follow CDC guidance for quarantine if they have a known exposure to an individual infected with COVID-19.
Can I still track COVID-19 data in FCPS?
Absolutely. We will continue to update our Health Metrics Dashboard on a daily basis with updates on COVID-19 cases in each school community, schoolwide attendance rates and more.
We will also regularly share updates to our FCPS COVID-19 Health Response. We remain committed to sharing timely information.
While some families will be happy face coverings are no longer mandatory, other families will still want students to wear face coverings. All students and staff must respect the decisions of others as we transition to individual choices for face coverings. School staff will be vigilant in ensuring that students feel safe and comfortable regardless of their face covering choice. We will do our best to accommodate everyone’s decisions as we continue emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.