Prince George’s drops its school mask mandate

Prince George’s County Public Schools will head into the upcoming school year with a mask-optional policy.

The public school system of about 128,000 students was the last in Maryland to keep a mask requirement in place, even as other jurisdictions dropped them earlier in the spring. Its neighbor, Montgomery County Public Schools, dropped a systemwide mask mandate in March.

The new policy for Prince George’s went into effect July 1. The updated Students Rights and Responsibilities Handbook addressing the policy change reads: “The mask-optional policy enables individuals to choose whether to wear a mask in schools and offices. This decision is personal; students and staff are asked to respect the choices of others.” Parents were also notified in a newsletter the following week.

The decision comes as some school systems have considered reviving their mask mandates as coronavirus variants have led to rising case numbers.

WTOP was the first to report on the policy change.

This year, when the omicron variant hit regional schools hard, Prince George’s chose to extend its winter break beyond any other school system’s to slow the spread of the virus. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the State Board of Education weighed in on the move, but school system leaders argued that the extension was critical after consulting with the local health department.

The new policy notes that mask-wearing rules could change based on guidance from local or state health officials, or if there is additional guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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