Harford County Public Schools will no longer require students, teachers or other staff to wear masks starting in July, including for all summer programs and those participating in July 4 parades in the community. The school system also expects to begin the 2021-2022 school year without masks.
The announcement comes the morning after Gov. Larry Hogan announced that the state of emergency and mask mandate will be lifted July 1, as the number of COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalizations in Maryland have declined to some of their lowest levels since the onset of the pandemic 15 months ago.
Students attending in-person summer school instruction and summer programs offered by HCPS will not be required to wear masks as of July 1, however they may still do so if they choose, according to a message from Jillian Lader, a spokesperson for the school system.
That also includes marching band students participating in July 4 Independence Day parades, although a notice from the school system said participants will still need to follow any parade committee guidelines in place. The Darlington Independence Day parade would still fall under the masking requirements because it is scheduled to take place June 26, Lader said.
In May, after consultation with the county health department, HCPS stated the students participating in July 4 parades who had not been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus would have to wear a mask, and those who played wind instruments such as the clarinet or trumpet would need to have a bell cover to prevent the aerosolized spread of the virus.
The requirement drew criticism from Republican Dels. Lauren Arikan and Kathy Szeliga, with Arikan calling the practice discriminatory. School officials at the time said it was similar to what students had been doing in schools’ band rooms to practice.
Participants in HCPS summer programs that begin in June will still have to wear masks until July 1, Lader said.
Masks are not expected to be required when the 2021-2022 school year begins Sept. 8; the 2020-21 school year concluded for students on Monday.
However, the school system will continue to have dialogue with the local health department and review guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maryland State Department of Education regarding schools and best practices in response to COVID-19 throughout the summer, Lader said in her message.