All Frederick County Public Schools students and staff will be required to wear masks inside school buildings this fall, the district announced Wednesday.

FCPS had planned to lift masking and distancing requirements at all levels and resume normal operations for the 2021-22 school year. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had said earlier this month that vaccinated students and teachers could go maskless at school, reversed course Tuesday, prompting a change from the county's school system.

As the delta variant of COVID-19 spreads across the country and vaccination rates slow, the CDC said, all people should wear masks in school buildings, regardless of whether they've received the shot.

Superintendent Terry Alban's announcement brings FCPS in line with that guidance. Since children under 12 aren't yet eligible for vaccination, the district's plan for maskless schooling had been partially out of step with the CDC's recommendations even before Tuesday's shift.

In her email to the community announcing the change, Alban wrote that requiring masks will allow schools to offer in-person learning without the hurdle of virus outbreaks and frequent quarantines.

"Parents want to preserve in-person learning," Alban wrote. "The mental health and educational consequences as well as the economic burdens of having to disrupt in-person learning have led to a broad and deep consensus to keep schools open."

Exceptions to the mask mandate will be allowed for students with certain medical conditions, disabilities or “developmental immaturity,” according to an FCPS news release. Masking outdoors will be “strongly recommended,” the release said, “particularly for those who are unvaccinated.”

For Missy Dirks, president of the union that represents FCPS teachers, the announcement was a welcome one. Though some of her members have expressed frustration about the difficulties of teaching without a clear view of their students’ faces, many more have grown concerned about the idea of maskless classrooms as the delta variant spreads, she said.

“We are glad the decisions are being based on scientific data,” Dirks said.

In her email, Alban cited a host of figures: The seven-day case rate per 100,000 residents in Frederick County has risen four-fold over the past three weeks, she wrote, and fewer than half of children between the ages of 12 and 17 are fully vaccinated.

Still, parents across the county are starkly divided.

New Market resident Nicki Marino, for instance, said she planned to send her rising fifth-grade daughter to school without a mask, regardless of FCPS’ mandate.

“If they have a problem with it, I don’t have a problem pulling my child from FCPS,” she said.

For Marino, the issue comes down to “bodily autonomy,” she said.

Sara Clement, on the other hand, who has a rising senior and a rising first-grader, wrote in an email that she’d been “very worried” about the idea of lifting mask mandates. She's vaccinated, but is still masking in public to protect her 6, 3 and 1-year-old children.

"I did not have high hopes for the honor system working," Clement wrote. "Sure, some unmasked people in public were vaccinated, but you could never be sure. People choosing not to be vaccinated are also the people who are typically anti-mask and surely taking advantage of the relaxed regulations."

The CDC wasn’t the first to call for the return of masks. In recent weeks, a number of cities and towns in hot spots have brought back indoor mask rules. The list includes municipalities ranging in size from Los Angeles to Provincetown, Massachusetts.

That’s because of the highly contagious delta version of the virus, the CDC said. That variant is driving surges of COVID-19 in much of the country and now accounts for more than 80 percent of infections.

The vast majority of new infections in the U.S. continue to be among unvaccinated people. Rarely, some vaccinated people do end up getting infected as well, although the vaccine cushions the blow and generally protects them from severe illness.

Previously, vaccinated people with “breakthrough infections” had low levels of virus and were unlikely to spread the virus much, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. But new data shows that isn’t the case with the delta variant. Vaccinated people “have the potential to spread that virus to others,” she said.

Alban echoed that logic in her email to the community Wednesday. Often, she wrote, children who contract the virus remain asymptomatic, but they risk spreading it to immunosuppressed or unvaccinated adults.

The CDC’s updated guidance also calls for everyone in areas where the virus is surging to return to masking indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. That doesn’t yet apply locally, according to a map published by the CDC. It shows Frederick County — and all counties in Maryland — as currently having a “moderate” level of community transmission, rather than “substantial” or “high.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek

(55) comments

phydeaux994

What the heck did Trump do to cause severe Dain Bramage to 74 million people in our Country? Some of these comments are beyond all comprehension. Following the guidelines of the CDC has saved millions of lives over the past years. Not following CDC guidelines has caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths over the past 18 months as well as an America on the edge of destruction. This is serious💩folks and we’re dealing with a bunch of looney tunes.

NewMarketParent

@phydeaux994

Try to prove they aren't a death cult!

sevenstones1000

Guess what, no one is allowed to smoke in school either. Why? Because second hand smoke is bad for both kids and staff. Where are the trumparents making a freedom of speech case about that? Freedom! Freedom! Cigarettes everywhere!

Crab0721

But yet I bet that you think that it's ok for them to smoke marijuana around their children. Also don't feed me the BS that it's not the same as smoking a cigarette.

NewMarketParent

Unfortunately, they really need to revisit virtual school again. People have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with the honor system and the school system has already made opting out of mask wearing to easy for horrible people. Those horrible people will absolutely lie about their kids not being able to wear masks and cause an outbreak and then never suffer any consequences for it. Nope!

bayoumomma

Hopefully, an assertion of "developmental immaturity" will require medical documentation, and not just parental say-so.

Sulu8

To the Ms. Marino referenced in this article - PLEASE just keep your child at home. Virtual school is an option you can choose. Talk about children being used as political pawns! I feel so sorry for any child forced to be singled out and pulled out of class simply so a narcissist parent can make some sort of ridiculous “statement.” No one will benefit, but your child will be hurt for sure.

Hayduke2

Sulu-[thumbup] That is an option for parents who object.

Awteam2021

I thing the idea is to protest children and those they come in contact.

Where is all this contempt for wearing mask coming from?

It’s uncomfortable but considering the number of people that have become ill or died that haven’t been vaccinated and the virus still is mutating, wearing a mask is a better options then not.

I’m sure you have been vaccinated but how would know other parents have taken the same precautions? They may not have taken the same precautions you did and threaten your kids.

Sulu8, if you don’t want your child to wear a mask in school, that’s if you have children in public school, and you feel your child wearing a mask is so devastating, why not you choose your choice, and do exactly what you said, virtual learning? The public school system will try to accommodate your concerns.

Hayduke2

See- you need to reread Sulu’s comment

Sulu8

Aw, you misunderstood. I am 100% fine with masks, although i think the better solution would be to require vaccinations, as is already the case with measles, polio, etc. I am not fine with parents who want to use their children as political statements.

Sulu8

Should have put vaccines are best *when they’re available for all ages* - I realize the vaccine isn’t available to the little ones yet. Until then, masks it is!

BornToHula2

[thumbup]

MD1756

They should be requiring the medical disposable mask be worn, and worn properly. The cloth masks appear not to be as effective especially if not cleaned properly and frequently enough. If one is worried about their child wearing a mask, then keep your child home and home school them.

Awteam2021

I believe all the schools will have disposable mask on hand for students and visitors. Also instructed in proper use and monitored. Along with hand sanitizer readily available.

jth7100

Timberman, you obviously need to stand up to pull that assertion out.

timberman

Instead of simply being Brainwashed just do a little research on your own even for the half educated it’s not that difficult give it a try

Hayduke2

Dude, don't think you focused on the right one being "Brainwashed"

jth7100

A&A, your source is a joke and even then, the studies cited don't even come to that conclusion. Swing and a miss.

LAR1

FNP next time please use a photo of masks being worn properly.

NewMarketParent

@LAR1

This is exactly why I don't trust the school system to keep the kids safe. They have already made carve-outs for parents that just choose not to comply. If they aren't willing to stand up to stupid parents, then they are not interested in keeping kids safe.

newspostreader

Anyone who is not vaccinated, and has no medical reason preventing it, has no right to be in this comments section complaining. Some of us stepped up and did our part to try to stop the spread of Covid by being vaccinated, while others sat back and enjoyed the benefits of no longer having to wear a mask. Now that it's time to mask up again, you want to complain. Should have done your part too. We wouldn't be in this situation.

timberman

Free speech of does that no longer apply?

Hayduke2

If that's what you took away from npr's post, it's just sad....

Awteam2021

Am I free to ask your past relationship with sheep 🐑, Big Easy?

Big Easy

Sheep don't believe in free speech

Hayduke2

Free speech doesn't mean you can't be called out for saying dumb or dangerous things bro.

newspostreader

Big Easy - If being smart and getting vaccinated makes me a sheep, well then bbbaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!

DickD

It would be better to require vaccinations, no exceptions. Going back almost 100 years vaccinations have been required. Why not now?

Masks will help, but they are not a permanent solution.

timberman

Totally Insane absolutely no science being followed For anyone who believes kids wearing mask is a good idea just do a little research on you own Study after Study will quickly change your mind This is Political not science pure and simple just remember you local elected officials at the next election

Awteam2021

Wrong

Hayduke2

Take your own advice dude. https://today.duke.edu/2021/06/research-finds-masks-can-prevent-covid-19-transmission-schools

Crab0721

rolleyes] there is Nothing Political about wearing a mask! If you have a problem with it feel free to keep your children home!! And also who cares about who we voted for they also have nothing to do with it!!

NewMarketParent

@timberman

Are you ever right about absolutely anything?

artandarchitecture

Over 50 Scientific Studies Conclude Masks Do Nothing to Prevent the Spread of Illness, So Why Do People Keep Claiming They Work?

by Daily Veracity, July 26, 2021

https://www.dailyveracity.com/2021/07/26/over-50-scientific-studies-conclude-masks-do-nothing-to-prevent-the-spread-of-illness-so-why-do-people-keep-claiming-they-work/

Awteam2021

You’re opposed 🤦‍♂️. Figures

Hayduke2

Art and arch - I know, all this information about the unvaccinated accounting for 99% of new infections is bogus, right? Funny, bet they are the same folks who made masks political. Sad.

shiftless88

Daily Veracity dot com? Seriously? That is your go-to source? Did you read the original science papers? Why do surgeons wear masks?

NewMarketParent

@artandarchitecture

Please use reputable sources. Just because you can find a picture of poop on the internet doesn't mean that you are an expert in poop (although you have demonstrated your expertise in poop).

Awteam2021

Wanting to protect children from mask over Covid is plain idiocy. Who’s opposed?

jth7100

Some Americans have tried to keep the virus circulating as long as possible and it has worked. Refuse the vaccine and "own the libs" may have drawbacks.

chris

This ^^^ [thumbup]

A few it seems? Death hasn’t been a drawback, but maybe masks will be? If only to be able to stop wearing masks, common sense when you think about it, get the vaccine and we can stop having these drawbacks! We will see?

Nicki

[thumbup]. JTH!!

Jdbgalt

I’m speechless!!

marinick1

This crap will never end. It's all about power. I'm glad I'm retired and no longer in the school system. I feel for the kids, who are being used as pawns.

phydeaux994

First you’re unhappy because the kids aren’t in school. Now that they are going back to school you’re unhappy because they have to wear masks. Only an Idiot would say this isn’t the right call, masks should have been mandated indoors from the beginning.

Nicki

[thumbup]. Phy!

Awteam2021

I’m glad too, that you are no longer in the school system. A win win 🏆.

bpsws

Ditto!

Nicki

Me too, Aw!

shiftless88

How, exactly, is this about power? Please explain how this decision has anything to do with power.

Hayduke2

marinick - I'm glad you're retired and no longer in the school system too!

Crab0721

[thumbup] I am glad that you are not with the schools anymore either because our kids don't need that kind of negativity or mentality in their lives!! They are definitely not pawns!! Everyone should be happy that they are going to school instead of complaining over wearing a mask!! You should be happy that they are going in person and not doing virtual learning again!!

public-redux

marinick, I won’t believe you are serious unless you disclaim your pension.

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