At the Howard County Board of Education meeting on August 12, 2021, Howard County Public School System Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano announced that all HCPSS employees will be required to provide proof of full vaccination or undergo regular COVID-19 testing for the 2021-2022 school year.
This decision is an outcome of growing concerns among stakeholders and to provide families and staff a higher level of assurance as they prepare for the start of the school year. The Superintendent noted that support for the decision was expressed by Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman and the leaders of HCPSS bargaining units, and stated that implementation procedures and further guidance will be made available over the coming days.
"I did not make this decision lightly," said Martirano. "We know that vaccines and masking are our best tools in confronting this pandemic. As a community, it is our responsibility to keep students safe by taking these precautions, and I feel strongly that this is another important measure to help keep our schools open."
HCPSS' decision to require proof of vaccination or testing is consistent with the Maryland State Department of Education's direction that in-person instruction be provided every day throughout the 2021-2022 school year. HCPSS does not intend to revise the in-person instructional model unless schools are directed to close by the state or Howard County Health Department.
"I have not wavered in my conviction that fully in-person instruction is absolutely best for our students academically and for their social and emotional well-being," added Martirano. "I want to make use of every tool available that will assist in mitigation to allow us to keep schools open. I don't want to leave anything to chance in keeping children safe."
Though HCPSS staff have not previously been required to disclose their vaccination status, 5,750 vaccine doses were disseminated through system partners last spring to all staff who wished to receive them, and many other staff members indicated they received vaccines through other providers.
The Superintendent also stated that Howard County public schools will be
open, in person, five days per week beginning on the first day of school. The district will return to a normal instructional program, with the addition of universal masking regardless of vaccination status and other precautions such as increased ventilation, continued hand-washing, use of hand sanitizer, and use of plexiglass where appropriate.