While masks are not mandated anymore in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, classrooms, they are now being recommended in some schools where COVID-19 is more widespread.
All students and staff members at a school will be asked to wear a mask indoors if at least 5% of their school’s population tests positive for COVID-19, according to Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto.
They will be asked to wear a mask for at least 10 days.
“The county’s case rate has tripled over the last month, and that uptick has been the focus of our daily conversations,” Arlotto said. “The department of health has studied and developed strategies aimed at avoiding sending large numbers of students home.”
It is a request, and not a mandate.
If a school’s population passes the 5% positivity mark, all students and staff members will be given at-home tests with a recommendation that they test themselves on Day One and Day Three.
“The 5% threshold will be a launching point into deeper, more granular examination of the data, including whether the cases are concentrated or widespread,” Arlotto said during a meeting of the county’s board of education on Wednesday.
Mother Bonnie Fitzpatrick, who spoke at the meeting, said she had concerns about the recommendations.
“Since the masking went away, the kids morale — they’re very upbeat — and it’s wonderful to see these smiling faces again,” she said.
Fitzpatrick told the board she was worried that masks coming back would mean that “morale is going to go way down.”
Arlotto said the guidance is meant to minimize the risk of outbreaks and avoid having to go back to virtual learning.
“We should do everything we can to keep students in classrooms where we know the best instruction and learning takes place,” Arlotto said. “These strategies help accomplish that.”
Earlier in the week, Montgomery County Executive Mark Elrich urged all residents in the county to wear masks indoors, saying the “current surge in cases is lasting longer than expected.”