Prince George’s County school system becomes latest district in Maryland to lift mask mandate

On Monday, August 29, the Prince George’s County Public Schools System (PGCPS) in Maryland announced that it would be dropping its mask mandate beginning Tuesday, September 6. The announcement followed the first full day back to school for students in suburban Washington DC.

Students line up outside the Adams campus of the Oyster Adams Bilingual School while waiting to check in for the first day of school, Monday, August 29, 2022 in Washington, DC. [AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais]

PGCPS joins state and metro Washington DC school systems in making face masks optional.

PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson cited declining COVID-19 positivity rates when making the decision in a post Tuesday. “All staff, students and families are encouraged to support personal decisions about mask wearing,” the post read, promoting the worst forms of individualism.

The “personal choice” policy is similar to one adopted by nearby Montgomery County Public Schools, which launched a “Turn it on or off, it’s just me” campaign last spring. The policy urged parents, teachers and students to “respect each other’s choices” when it comes to masking.

The decision came two and a half weeks after the school district reinstated mandatory mask-wearing “until further notice” on the recommendation of the Prince George’s County Health Department. An optional mask plan had been put in place in July.

According to Washington Post, the county kept the requirement in place until it reached a COVID-19 vaccination rate of more than 80%. As of September 1, only two ZIP codes — 20707 (Laurel) and 20769 (Glenn Dale) — met that benchmark for residents aged five or older. It exposed the hypocrisy of Goldson’s previous claims that she was exercising “abundance of caution” regarding COVID-19.

Goldson concluded his statement by saying the district “was not going to put pressure on anyone who wants to keep their mask on.”

Democrats had backed limited mitigation efforts as a replacement for temporary school and workplace closures, which are necessary to contain and eliminate COVID. They have since abandoned any pretense of slowing the spread of the deadly and debilitating virus, with Biden fully embracing Trump’s “let it go” policy.

The Prince George’s County Education Association, which previously endorsed the Democratic Party-led district’s mask requirement in schools, remained silent after mask mandates were suddenly dropped.

In comments to CNN posted Aug. 31 — two days after the county’s decision — PGCEA President Donna Christy spoke of teachers “burning out and leaving districts scrambling to fill jobs” .

While the union president acknowledged the ‘exodus’ of teachers leaving the district for ‘higher pay’ and ‘better working conditions’, she said nothing about the district’s decision to drop its demands. masking.

“My union hasn’t even said anything about the status of our tentative agreement, let alone the masks [policy]“, a PGCPS teacher told the World Socialist Website.

“Orientation this year was lousy,” the PGCPS teacher added, explaining that her school was “crowding kids into classrooms and violating fire and safety codes” alongside social distancing rules. “Apart from the masks, we have no sanitation measures… We have never been in compliance” with public health requirements, she said.

The teacher also said the school routinely places 45-50 children in “non-essential” classes. Even main classes can expect to have up to 40 students per class by the end of the year.

“I didn’t have a real lunch break last year,” the teacher explained. “You are expected to attend meetings all day and prepare an agenda. If you don’t, you’ll get bad scores.

PGCPS is currently short of 1,100 teaching positions and 100 bus drivers. “We expect to still average about four and a half positions per school for the next school year,” Goldson told NBC in August.

As a result, the school system turned to the privatization of school functions. “Our entire curriculum is owned by Discovery Education,” said the teacher who spoke to the WSWS, referring to the private education company based in Charlotte, North Carolina. “They have total control over our classrooms,” she added.

The Biden administration and the rest of the political establishment seek to chloroform the public about the lingering danger of the pandemic. This includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) misleading community-level chart that nearly three-quarters of all counties fall into the “medium” or “low” level.

The community transmission chart, which tracks new cases per 100,000 people, tells a different story: 89% of all counties have high levels of community transmission: 100 or more new cases per 100,000, plus 10% or more of positive nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs). . In addition, an additional 7% have a “substantial” level of transmission.

All counties in Maryland have high levels of transmission, except for Carroll, Baltimore, Calvert, and Caroline counties, as well as the District of Columbia, which have substantial levels.

Last week, the Biden administration ended its federal program that provided free COVID-19 testing, not only through test kits but also in schools and shelters, leaving the working class even more vulnerable to a pandemic that is far from over.

Prince George’s County teachers protest in 2019 (Source: PGCEA)

Those who return to school will also have to reckon with the painful monkeypox virus, which threatens more than ever to degenerate into a pandemic. As of September 1, the United States had 19,465 cases of monkeypox, more than any other country, according to the CDC. The CDC downplays the monkeypox virus with as much vigor as COVID-19, recently stating, “At this time, there is no need to generalize monkeypox vaccination among children or facility personnel. K-12 schools or early childhood institutions”.

Educators who try to organize resistance and strike for better conditions see their struggles suppressed and repressed by the unions.

Such was the case with the teachers’ strike in Columbus, Ohio, late last month. The Columbus Education Association, PGCEA’s sister organization, ended the strike in the dark of night, reaching a ‘conceptual agreement’ with district officials, who ignored teachers’ demands for substantial raises , smaller classes, improved ventilation and insect cleaning. and rodent-infested schools.

Last week, the Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee, made up of concerned workers and parents across the country, held an emergency online event, calling on parents, teachers and workers across the United States and of the world to organize resistance to the ruling class “COVID-19 Politics Forever”.

The Socialist Equality Party of the United States, in a statement endorsing the meeting, called on workers and educators to “harness their collective strength, unite across the country and internationally, and prepare for a national educators’ strike to stop pandemics and demand a giant investment in public education.

A key prerequisite for this is “the expansion of the rank-and-file educators safety committee, in solidarity with the International Rank-and-file Committee Workers Alliance (IWA-RFC), by establishing local committees in every school and neighborhood. , independent of trade unions and capitalist political parties.