Board lifts mask mandate, schools mask optional effective immediately

Seyun Park

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The Board of Education voted 8-0 to lift its mask mandate in MCPS buildings. Student board member Hana OLooney was absent from the meeting.

Photo courtesy of MCPSTV

The Board of Education voted 8-0 to lift its mask mandate in MCPS buildings. Student board member Hana O’Looney was absent from the meeting.

The MCPS Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday, March 8 to lift its school mask mandate, effective immediately. The lift encompasses school buildings, buses, athletics and extracurriculars.

Weeks after the Maryland State Board of Education lifted its statewide mask mandate, backed by loosened CDC guidelines on masking, the move came with both praise and controversy.

“Even though I still think Covid is a risk, we need to respect those that opt out of masks, after all it has been two years of masks and Covid,” freshman Quinn Lapthorn said.

In encouraging the move, parents cited the social impacts of children not being able to see each other’s faces, while others noted the danger the move could pose to children who are immunocompromised.

Masks have been required in schools since students first returned to school buildings in March of 2021 and have become a normal part of student and teacher’s lives.

“I think that it wasn’t necessary, and while I may not be super worried about Covid and masks, I’m sure lots of people will be seriously bothered by it,” freshman Henry Healey said.

MCPS is one of the last school districts in the DC metro area to lift its mask mandate, with Prince Georges County and DC Public Schools still keeping theirs in place.

Although MCPS shifted to mask-optional immediately, in a community message sent out shortly after the vote, the district emphasized the importance of respecting each individual’s decision on whether or not to mask. MCPS Student Member of the Board Hana O’Looney recently faced one harassment for her statements in a Feb. 26 board meeting supporting continuing the mask mandate; this was before the CDC lifted its guidance for schools. O’Looney’s comments were written about in the National Review, a national conservative magazine, and many attacked O’Looney making fun of her last name.

In a new campaign called “On or Off, It’s Just Me,” MCPS pledged to promote acceptance of individuals masking choices through widespread posters, videos, community messages and social media.

“The decision to wear or remove masks is an individual and very personal one. We respect the decisions of our families, our students, our teachers and administrators, and we ask that our community demonstrate that same respect,” President of the Board Brenda Wolff said.