With the end of the state-imposed school mask mandate less than two weeks away, Island school committee members split Thursday on whether or not to immediately drop the mandates in their individual district schools.

During a three-hour online video conference that drew over 200 viewers and participants, the Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Up-Island school committees voted to rescind their towns’ mask mandates, while Tisbury’s committee voted to suspend the mandate but reimpose it if Covid-19 infection rates on the Vineyard exceed five per cent.

Only the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School committee voted, 5-3, not to end its masking policy, leading principal Sara Dingledy to lament the lack of unity.

“To be out of step with the other schools feels very strange,” Ms. Dingledy said. “I think we should be in line with the other schools... I feel like our kids deserve it [and] our staff deserves it.”

Ms. Dingledy also criticized the lack of discussion before the high school committee’s vote.

“I really feel like the high school vote was pushed through,” she said.

Committee member Robert Lionette, who had voted with the majority, apologized to Ms. Dingledy and asked high school committee chair Amy Houghton to add a discussion on the masking policy to the agenda for Feb. 24.

The final decision on whether the mask mandate at Island schools is ended, however, does not rest with school committees. As public places, the school remain governed by the Island boards of health and town health agents.

“No matter what was voted this evening, nothing has changed,” said all-Island school committee chair, Kate DeVane.

While the state has set Feb. 28 as the date when schools may stop imposing mask rules, the Vineyard’s boards of health ­— who have been working as a group throughout the pandemic — want an additional month, according to a statement from the health agents issued earlier this week.

“We believe it is important to keep the school mandate in place for at least three weeks after school vacation (the Vineyard’s school break runs from Feb. 28 to March 7) to ensure that we don’t experience a surge of cases as we did after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays,” the statement reads, in part.

Edgartown health agent Matt Poole, who attended Thursday’s meetings, told the group that the next meeting among town boards of health will take place the week of March 7, when the policy and timeline will be reviewed.

“There absolutely is an interest in... relaxing the mandates or suspending the mandates,” Mr. Poole said. “We want to time it right, and we think it’s important to do it in unison.”

Committee members’ arguments in favor of dropping the mask rules included the fact that many Cape Cod and South Coast schools have already ended theirs.

“Our students will be competing against them [in sports],” said Kris O’Brien of the Oak Bluffs school committee.

But Tisbury committee member Mike Watts noted that the Island has more limited hospital facilities than the mainland, posing risks in case of a virus surge.

“We really are different,” Mr. Watts said.

Public comments during Thursday’s session came down on both sides of the question, with some parents and teachers arguing for an immediate end to masking while others urged staying the course with the boards of health.

“It’s time to start living our lives again,” parent Morgan Douglas said. “We have to be a part of the world.”

Karl Nelson, who teaches at West Tisbury school, charged that masking was harming children’s development, while parent Brian Smith grew emotional as he pleaded, “Let children be children again. Let kids be kids. Enough of this nonsense.”

Parent Allyson Malik said she was surprised by the discussion.

“For us it was a simple metric: what’s the worst that can happen if we keep the masks... versus opening up risk factors that remain very much present?” Ms. Malik asked. “It seems like we’re moving forward a little too quickly.”

Shimmy Mehta, another Island parent, also spoke up for following the health boards’ timeline, while teacher and parent Nicole Shirley said masks are not causing problems for her students.

“What was traumatic, I believe, was the social distancing,” Ms. Shirley said. “Since we have relaxed that and had the masks on, there is good learning. Kids are happy and they’re safe.”