Education

State Board of Education to re-evaluate masking mandate – WYPR

Summary

Maryland’s State Board of Education heard from parents across the state Tuesday on whether to continue the statewide masking mandate for public schools.

Kristen Caminiti, a mother of four in Anne Arundel County, said masking protected her sixth grader when he was exposed to a classmate with COVID. Her son is also vaccinated.

“Now is not the time to change our protocols around masks,” Caminiti said. “While many people continue to res…….

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Maryland’s State Board of Education heard from parents across the state Tuesday on whether to continue the statewide masking mandate for public schools.

Kristen Caminiti, a mother of four in Anne Arundel County, said masking protected her sixth grader when he was exposed to a classmate with COVID. Her son is also vaccinated.

“Now is not the time to change our protocols around masks,” Caminiti said. “While many people continue to resist vaccination — the only way out of this pandemic — it is not time to relax our efforts to mitigate the spread of this disease.”

Jared DeCoste, a father of two, said there are at least four COVID-19 cases in his first grader’s classroom, and that an additional 10 to 12 students have had to quarantine for nearly two weeks.

“If we unmask students during heightened rates of transmission, this will become more common, severely disrupting learning for these students,” DeCoste said.

Others called the mandate an “abuse of power” by the state board, and argued that the decision should be left to local school boards.

Benjamin Heiser said masking can be stressful for children with special needs. Heiser said his youngest daughter relies on facial cues to communicate.

“Because she can’t see the teacher’s face, she’s learning by tone,” he said. “As I speak to my daughter, she will interpret the tone as something maybe bad, and she’ll start crying and say that she’s sorry.”

Heiser said he’s opposed to a mandate, but that if it must continue, the state should issue a protocol for mask hygiene, including more specific guidance on what kind of masks to wear, how to wash them and how often you should change them.

The mask mandate, which has been in place since the beginning of the school year, is set to expire on Feb. 25.

But the board may reevaluate that end date, as 5 to 11 year olds are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Local school systems are also reporting fewer cases than they were in October, according to the state department of education.

Parents in support of the mandate urged the board to wait until the majority of students get vaccinated, citing evidence that masks help prevent transmission of COVID.

They also warned that transmission rates could go up again with the upcoming holidays.

Rene Averitt-Sanzone, the executive director of The Parents’ Place of Maryland, a nonprofit that serves children with disabilities and special health care needs, said that until vaccines are more widespread, masks are an important tool.

But she agreed that some children with disabilities or special needs may need more flexibility. In that case, Averitt-Sanzone said, individualized education programs can help.

“if a child has a great deal of difficulty wearing a mask or being able to access their education, or for whatever reason, that is a conversation that needs to happen within …….

Source: https://www.wypr.org/wypr-news/2021-11-17/state-board-of-education-to-re-evaluate-masking-mandate