When the Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Wilmington issued its COVID-19 protocols in mid-August for schools in Delaware and Maryland, it noted that changing circumstances “may require Catholic schools to pivot” on short notice. That is exactly what has happened with regard to students in Maryland.
Since that letter went home on Aug. 16, the increasing number of COVID cases and the decision of the Maryland state superintendent of schools to require masks in schools, along with information about quarantines from the county health departments, caused the diocesan schools office to re-evaluate its decision about masks. Originally, parents would have made the decision about whether their children would wear masks inside schools. That is no longer the case.
On Aug. 26, the Maryland State Board of Education approved a mask mandate for students and staff indoors in the state’s public schools. The board made no mention of nonpublic schools, but diocesan Superintendent of Schools Louis De Angelo wrote to parents that the schools office believes that is the best decision going forward with county rates of positivity for COVID-19 where they are.
One of the reasons for requiring masks is to maximize the ability to keep students in school. If students were not masked, a positive diagnosis of a teacher or student would be required by county health departments to quarantine the entire class. Fewer students will need to quarantine if all are wearing masks.
“While requiring masks was not our initial decision in mid-August, circumstances have changed,” De Angelo wrote to parents on Aug. 27. “We shall revisit this current decision as the school year gets under way.”
Pre-kindergarten students will follow the same rules as elementary and high schools. Masking is required for all indoor activities, including instruction, sports, practices, rehearsals, assemblies, etc. Adults must wear masks if students are present. No masks are required for outdoor activities. The same is true for spectators. Masks are required on schools buses.
As in his previous letter, De Angelo encouraged parents to have their children vaccinated if they are age 12 or older.
“Vaccination remains our primary means to reduce the county rates for COVID positivity. Please encourage family and neighbors to be vaccinated,” he wrote.