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Carroll County Board of Education approves resolution asking governor to lift mask order in schools

The Carroll County Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution requesting the governor rescind the mask requirement for the end of the school year, summer recovery, and into the fall for the new school year.

Members met on Monday for a special meeting after board President Marsha Herbert, Vice President Ken Kiler and the District 5 state delegation wrote letters to the state education department last week requesting the in-school mask mandate be lifted, citing low COVID numbers and preparation for summer learning and the fall semester. A few days later the board called a special meeting to formally vote on a resolution draft that asks the governor to tweak the part of the mask order concerning schools.

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The resolution from the board stated that Gov. Hogan said the indoor mask mandate will be lifted as soon as as 70% of the adults received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. A goal he said was met on May 31. It goes on to state based on public health data, the board determined “any benefit of wearing face coverings indoors is offset by damage to the physical and mental wellbeing and health of students.” And they requested the governor amend or rescind the part of his order “effective immediately” concerning wearing face covering inside a school.

The mask order in Maryland was officially lifted May 15 for all residents, even those without vaccines. However, masks are required for public transit, hospitals and schools. Unvaccinated residents are strongly encouraged to wear masks, but that will not be enforced.

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Kiler said Monday the reason the board was meeting was to “solely discuss the resolution.” He said in an interview last week his reason for requesting masks to be an option instead of a mandate is because of the high number of Marylanders who have been vaccinated, the low case rates in the community and the lack of severity COVID-19 has on school-aged children.

Board member Donna Sivigny said she was supportive of the resolution but noted she is doubtful the state will give a response by the end of the school year. Tuesday, June 15 is the last day for students. But added it’s important to take the first step now so they can be ready for summer recovery, which will have nearly 4,000 students and starts in July.

Board member Patricia Dorsey asked how they got to this point.

“I think I must’ve been sort of late coming into the conversation,” she said, adding that she received a call about it June 1 and saw the letter from the delegation May 28.

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Herbert said she talked to Superintendent Steve Lockard and Ed O’Meally, the board’s legal counsel, about moving forward as the number of COVID cases decline.

Kiler said he sent a letter to the state as “Kenny Kiler” on purpose because he wanted to make the request as a citizen rather than on behalf of the board, which O’Meally said is legal.

O’Meally said he suggested Herbert have an open meeting to make a resolution adoption to remain in accordance with the open meetings act.

“I knew that this was going to drag on, and it’s very time sensitive,” Herbert said.

Fellow member Tara Battaglia said she was also surprised to hear about the letters but was glad it was done this way.

“Anybody in the public has a right to send a letter to the governor requesting change for something,” she said. “I am a full supporter and advocate for parent choice and family choice.”

However, she does not support people pushing the COVID vaccine onto others nor making it mandatory.

Devanshi Mistry, the student representative on the BOE, said she supports local authority but is uncomfortable with the removal of masks mandate, and “a bit uncomfortable with the message that this sends.” She said other students feel the same way because not every student is vaccinated.

Lockard said he spoke to Ed Singer, the county health officer, who said if transmission rates continue to be low and if the governor lifts the order, he would also support it.

Dorsey noted if the request is approved, the board will meet back up to have a discussion before voting and implementing a change in school mask orders.

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