"I have not been thinking about a maskless classroom," Prince George's County Public Schools' CEO Monica Goldson said in Capitol Heights, WTOP reported. "The only classroom I’ve been thinking about is one where teaching and learning takes places from the time the kids walk in until the time they leave."
"The only off-ramp I want is the one where COVID no longer exists," Goldson said. "I don’t think that that off-ramp will exist. I think this is how our life will be … and we’re showing that we’re adaptable and we can make whatever necessary changes so that we can keep our students learning and safe."
Students in the county returned to the classroom for the first time this year on Jan. 18. The school district abruptly decided in December to return to virtual learning for the first two weeks of January due to the omicron variant.
Goldson made her position on masks clear, despite acknowledging successes in the school district’s testing initiative and increased vaccination rates among students.
Parents for the county’s some 110,000 students enrolled in in-person classes are asked to upload test results for their children every Sunday until at least the end of February. Last week was the first time that students were sent home with antigen rapid tests over the weekend with instructions for their parents to administer the tests Sunday, before sending kids back to school Monday morning. Testing is voluntary.
"Today was the first day where students and parents were back in schools after utilizing" their tests, Goldson said Monday. "We had over 85,000 tests uploaded into our database and just a few students who tested positive. So as far as I’m concerned, that’s positive, because I never want those sick kids around other students and continue to infect them."
According to the county health department, about 30% of students ages 5 to 9, and about two-thirds of students ages 10 and older, have received at least one round of the vaccine. More than 94% of the county population age 12 and older have received at least one vaccination shot.
"We remain hopeful for a time when COVID-19 is no longer an issue and does not impact our day-to-day operations. However, based on recent updates from health professionals including Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Fauci, we may never reach a point where there are no Coronavirus cases," a spokeswoman for Prince George's County Public Schools said in a statement to Fox News Digital Wednesday.
"PGCPS will continue to make health and safety decisions, including the wearing of masks, in collaboration with our County health partners and after review of CDC guidance," she continued. "For now, the data tells us that continued mask-wearing in our schools and offices is necessary. Our mask requirement will remain in place."
Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks also supports keeping the mask mandate for now.
"The masks have been our best way of keeping all of us safe, and until and unless we hear otherwise from our health professionals, we’re going to continue to stay the course," Alsobrooks said Monday. "We’ll see what the science says, and we’ll follow it, and if the science says at some point it is safe for us to remove the mask we’ll do that, but otherwise, we’re in no hurry to do anything that jeopardizes the health of our students."
Challenges to student mask mandates are gaining fervor around the country.
In New York, a Long Island judge recently ruled against the statewide mask mandate Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul attempted to bring back in December amid a surge in omicron cases.
But New York City Mayor Eric Adams quickly said that masks would still in required in public schools in the Big Apple. By Wednesday, an appellate judge granted a stay in the state’s lawsuit, meaning schools must still enforce the mask mandate during the appeals process.
In Virginia, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, issuing an executive order on the same day he was inaugurated on Jan. 15, banned school mask mandates and made mask wearing optional in classrooms in his push for increased parental rights. The same day the order went into effect Monday, school boards in seven counties filed a lawsuit pushing back against the order.