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State Board of Education votes to create “off-ramps” for ending masking

Credit: Allison Shelley/Alliance For Excellent Education/Flickr
Credit: Allison Shelley/Alliance For Excellent Education/Flickr

The state school board voted 12-2 Wednesday to have the state Department of Education draft new regulations for ending the mask mandate.

Those regulations would include “off-ramps” of COVID-19 metrics that local school systems could use to decide when to lift mask mandates.

Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury said vaccination rates should be taken into account in the off-ramp metrics.

“That's very important,” he said. “What that looks like specifically, we still need to think through.”

The move could yield more control to local jurisdictions and help gradually end the statewide masking mandate, which remains in effect and is set to expire in February.

Choudhury said there isn’t yet a “universal system” that would track all COVID-19 vaccinations within public schools. But he said creating that process for “off-ramps” would “not be completely unrealistic.”

“We're doing it with routine vaccinations,” Choudhury said. “That's what we have to do every school year for a subset of kids.”

Once the department of education drafts a new regulation, the board will convene again for a vote.

The board did not decide when the new emergency regulation should take effect. It’s also not clear whether it would replace the existing statewide masking mandate already in place before it’s set to expire.

Sarah Y. Kim is WYPR’s health and housing reporter. Kim is WYPR's Report for America corps member, and Anthony Brandon Fellow. Kim joined WYPR as a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. Now in her second year as an RFA corps member, Kim is based in Baltimore City.