The RSU 21 School Board voted Monday, Aug. 2 to require students and staff wear masks in school buildings and on school buses this fall, part of a package of initiatives to try to keep people safe. Tammy Wells Photo

KENNEBUNK – All Regional School Unit 21 students and staff will wear masks inside school buildings and on school buses when they return to classes in the fall. The decision is part of a package of safety initiatives recommended by Superintendent Terri Cooper.

The RSU 21 School Board voted overwhelmingly in favor of the measures on Monday evening. The motion, by Loreta McDonnell, includes a provision that they may be amended, as necessary.

“Last year we kept students and employees safe following all recommended guidelines and we’ll continue in that manner no matter what anyone else is doing,” said McDonnell.

Students are poised to return to in-person classes five days a week when the school year begins. The school calendar show all grade 1-12 students report for class on Aug. 30, while Pre-K and kindergarten students begin classes Sept. 1.

The initiatives also include pool testing, with parental consent, and if approved by the state, where specimens from a classroom are combined and then tested to determine if coronavirus is present. If there is a positive result, students are then tested individually.

The initiatives also  include cleaning and sanitizing, physical distancing when possible, staying home if there are symptoms of illness, handwashing and more.

The district will follow Maine CDC and Maine Department of Education guidelines, said Cooper. She went on to say that there will be mask breaks during the school day and that they may come off when students are outside.

“I think it’s a layer of protection we can provide, and we will make sure every student and staff member are as safe as possible,” Cooper told the school board. “If a student is exposed, they take it home (and the) community is getting back to work. We don’t want this to increase in numbers.”

She said measures are in place so students can attend classes in person five days a week.

School physician Dr. Donald Burgess pointed out that the delta variant of the coronavirus is more virulent than others, 20 to 30 percent more contagious, he said.

“It’s not causing severe disease among those vaccinated; those people are getting mild symptoms,” said Burgess. “What’s keeping it going is the unvaccinated.”

He said as much as 20 percent of the disease is seen in children.

Burgess said the Northeast is not in a “hot” area for the delta variant, but in a moderate area.

“We should have a fairly low transmission rate in our schools if we take these precautions,” said Burgess.

Gov. Janet Mills, on July 28, said the state will follow U.S. Centers for Disease control, which recommends face coverings for all staff and student school settings regardless of vaccination status or community transmission levels, among other precautions.

 

 

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