This story was updated at 6:25 p.m. Feb. 22, 2022, to include a comment from a Montgomery County Public Schools statement.

The Maryland State Board of Education on Tuesday voted to rescind its statewide mask mandate, a step in returning decision-making authority to local school boards.

But the effective date wasn’t immediately clear because a joint legislative committee must approve the rescission, and a date to do so has not been set.

That committee — the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee, made up of 19 state lawmakers — can determine what date the mask mandate would be lifted statewide, according to legal counsel for the state school board.

State school board members set March 1 as a “target date” for the mandate to be lifted.

But if the committee approves the measure, local school boards could decide whether to lift their individual mandates or leave them in place.

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The state board had already approved what it called “off ramps” that districts could use to lift their mandates, if certain vaccination and transmission metrics were reached.

According to the regulation, districts could decide to lift their mandates if at least 80% of the county’s population is vaccinated against COVID-19 or at least 80% of students and employees are fully vaccinated.

A school district that doesn’t meet those rates could still lift its mandate if its county has 14 consecutive days of moderate or low transmission, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The new action this week would remove the requirement for any of those metrics to be met before school districts lift their individual mask mandates. The local school boards could choose to keep their mandates, even after the statewide requirement is removed.

In Montgomery County, despite meeting the community vaccination threshold for lifting a mask requirement (85.1% as of Tuesday), school district leaders said they were waiting on the state board’s decision this week before moving forward.

MCPS instituted its mask mandate before the state board did. The Montgomery County school board is scheduled to meet on Thursday afternoon and is expected to discuss “operations,” which often includes COVID-19.

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In a statement on Tuesday evening, Montgomery County Public Schools said: “A decision about masks in MCPS will be reviewed in the near future.”

The state board’s vote to rescind the mandate comes after Gov. Larry Hogan called on it earlier this month to do so. He cited improving COVID-19 metrics following the recent surge in cases, and availability of vaccines.

In a statement on Tuesday, Hogan thanked the board members for “heeding our call to rescind its school mask policy” and called on state lawmakers to “act swiftly to ratify” the decision.

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Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com