MCPS mask mandate should remain in place

Cecilia Saltzman

More stories from Cecilia Saltzman

For the past two years, masks have become a regular part of our lives. Mask mandates are dropping in school districts around the country and the Maryland Board of Education has voted to drop the statewide mask mandate in schools. Montgomery County has already dropped its mask mandate for businesses. But, it is imperative for MCPS to continue to require masks in schools to ensure the safety of staff, students and their families.

Masks have been proven to lower the transmission of Covid in schools. In schools with mask mandates overall cases have been down. According to a report made by the CDC, the average pediatric Covid cases were lower in school districts with mask mandates compared to those without during the first weeks of school. This trend has stayed consistent throughout the school year.

Our schools are home to many immunocompromised students and teachers. If immunocompromised people get Covid, they’re at higher risk of serious illness. Masks reduce the spread of Covid, so many higher-risk individuals prefer to be surrounded by people wearing masks. If masks aren’t required, these groups might not feel comfortable attending school because of the increased risk of catching the virus. Student and teacher absences would increase, which would disrupt the flow of learning for everyone.

Masks don’t only suppress the spread of Covid, but they also lower the risk of catching colds and other illnesses, like the flu. Over the past two years, masks have made other illnesses less infectious, especially in schools. Every year, sicknesses, like the common cold and the flu keep teachers and kids at home, which allows for students to fall behind.

Before mask mandates are dropped for schools, officials should ensure enough people are vaccinated to lower the spread. In elementary schools, many students aren’t able to get vaccinated, so they’re at higher risk of getting Covid and spreading it to others. There are still many middle and high schoolers who are not fully vaccinated too.

Although masks may be frustrating to wear for seven hours each day, they keep our schools safe from Covid. Many students would much rather go to school, in person, and with masks than be forced to stay home and attend school virtually because of a rise in cases.

While the pressure has risen for eliminating mask mandates, until we receive more guidance, it is best for MCPS to require masks to ensure the safety of everyone in the community. With a mask optional policy, the spread of Covid could rise, leading to disruptions in the flow of learning and the risk of getting sick.