After meeting with the MCPS COVID 19 Task Force in the past week, Superintendent Rob Watson told KGVO about the process he and the school board followed to recommend masks for students to start the coming school year.

“Last year we had a task force of individuals that work on our COVID committee,” said Watson. “It includes parents, teachers and school principals as well as a pediatrician from the community and a member of the health department. That task force met several times over the last seven or eight days. We basically had three listening sessions of the task force at the end of last week in the first part of this week.”

Watson said feedback was then received from the task force and the public.

“We took feedback from the task force, and then we took feedback from the public,” he said. “Face coverings are one of those issues that create a lot of interest and a lot of participation, and we had a lot of public comments. What we're hearing is that there are really parents on both sides of this issue. It's definitely not one of those issues that's completely one sided. I think there are pros and cons on both sides of it.”

When all was said and done, Watson said he and the task force made their recommendation.

“Out of an abundance of caution and based on the CDC guidance, we are going to recommend to the board that we start the year with face coverings in all schools K through 12,” he said. That’s for indoors only,  not outdoors. Our school board will hear that recommendation on Tuesday night and they'll hopefully make a decision after they hear the recommendation.”

After already having had one public meeting that was too large for the facility, Watson said the only way to allow so many people to take part was via a ZOOM virtual meeting.

“I suspect once it gets to the level of school board, you could have five times as many or 10 times as many people that want to be there, and we don't really have facility to do that,” he said. “Also, we don't have the staff to manage a crowd that size, and it's too much to ask for the police department to help us try to manage a crowd that size, which is part of the reason we decided to do the virtual option only because we want to make sure everyone has a chance to participate. That's the best way to do it when we're expecting a crowd that large.”

One group of parents plans to hold a protest outside the MCPS administration building adjacent to Sentinel High School on August 10, as a symbol of opposition to the proposed mask mandate.

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