Since Howard County’s Board of Education voted to lift the universal indoor masking requirement Feb. 24, face masks are now optional in county public schools. Parents shared varied opinions about the lifting of the mask requirement.
Becky McGill-Wilkinson, of Columbia, a mother of a preschooler and a first grader at Swansfield Elementary School in Columbia, said the school system should have waited to lift the mask requirement until children of all ages can be vaccinated.
“I kind of wish that they had waited until the kids under 5 could be vaccinated, especially because many of the schools do have pre-K programs, so they may have students in the building who are not eligible to be vaccinated yet,” she said.
Kathy Bonneau, a New Market resident and mother of a sophomore at Glenelg High School, said she is glad that the mask requirement has been lifted and believes it could have happened a lot sooner.
“I’ve been following the numbers online through the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and through the county, and the transmission rates were dropping, the hospitalization numbers were coming down [and] the case numbers were coming down,” Bonneau said. “I personally feel they could have even started the school year with no masks back in August or September.”
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Traci Spiegel, a of Woodbine resident and parent of a sophomore and a senior at Glenelg High School, said she is pleased with the school system’s decision to lift the mask requirement because it puts the school system in line with much of the rest of the county.
“It’s important for the Board of Education to be consistent with what’s happening in the rest of the county,” Spiegel said. “The metrics of our vaccination rates and the COVID numbers of hospitalizations, particularly of students, is incredibly low, so I think it was the right time.”
The county has continued to lead the state in vaccination rates with 90.2% of its residents fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker.
As of March 4, the seven-day total of positive cases was 49, which is significantly lower than during the recent omicron surge when the seven-day total of positive cases among staff was 108 and students was 945.
Spiegel said she hopes the lifting of the mask requirement will be the start of a normal rest of the school year.
“I hope everyone can be kind to each other as everyone navigates what is happening,” she said. “I hope the Board of Education continues to follow sound metrics, and I mostly hope we can get to some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy.”