In the early months of the pandemic, Johns Hopkins launched a program to develop guidance for schools and policymakers as they navigate school closures and reopening.
The initiative recently launched an online tracker that monitors state policies about masking in schools, COVID-19 vaccines for eligible students and teachers, and COVID-19 services offered in the school setting.
The tracker examines these policies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Bureau of Indian Education, and major U.S. territories.
It also tracks information from 56 school districts in 20 states – including Maryland – representing the lowest and highest poverty, as well as the largest school district in each state.
The tracker found variations in school policies based on factors such as the governor and size of the school district.
It found that 65 percent of states with Democratic governors require teacher and student masking, while only 10 percent of states with Republican governors do.
Further, 35 percent of states with Democratic governors require teacher COVID vaccines, and only 3 percent of states with Republican governors do.
In terms of size, the study found that the largest districts are requiring masks and vaccinations at a much higher rate than smaller districts.
The tracker also found significant variations at the district level.
It discovered 46 instances where district policies for masking and vaccination did not align with their state’s policy.
“The disconnect between state and district policy can create issues of trust for parents and teachers, as they are being told one thing by the state, and often something entirely different by their school district,” said Megan Collins, a bioethicist and associate professor of medicine at the Wilmer Eye Institute, in a statement.
The tracker monitors three school districts in Maryland: Montgomery County, Carroll County, and Baltimore City.
Montgomery County represents the largest district, and Carroll County and Baltimore City are the districts with lowest and highest poverty rate, respectively.
According to the tracker, the school policies for student and teacher masking in all three districts aligns with state-wide policies.
Other policies, such as mandatory vaccinations for teachers, are inconsistent.
The tracker will be updated on a weekly basis.