MSAD 75 school board members discuss masking protocols during a special meeting on Monday evening. Screenshot

After a heated three-hour debate punctuated by angry parents and threats of police intervention, the Maine School Administrative District 75 school board on Tuesday approved a mask mandate for all students, staff, faculty and visitors in indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.

At one point during the meeting, board chair Holly J.P. warned the crowd to stop yelling over speakers, leading to several interruptions and warnings that residents would be removed from the meeting by police.

After impassioned arguments by parents for and against masking, the board narrowly voted 7-6 in favor of the mask requirement, which will be revisited in October, when it will either be extended, dropped or adjusted depending on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community.

“The board took the decision to protect the health, safety, and wellness of students, staff, families and community members,” said interim Superintendent Bob Lucy. “We will reassess the mask mandate during our board of selectmen meeting in October and make a decision based on the internal data that we derive from pool testing.”

Eric Wing, a resident of Topsham, said he believes that masks should be optional.

“Our children have spent the last school year with many procedures and restrictions that with the information currently available can be questioned as unnecessary and extreme,” said Wing. “Allow our students to have an opportunity for an enjoyable, comfortable, and quality learning experience for the upcoming school year.”

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Bowdoin Central School teacher Bruce Jones said that it’s essential to provide a safe environment for the school community.

“We need to keep in mind that a student who is exposed goes home to their family and comes in contact with their fragile grandparents and people with other medical conditions. I hope you will follow the most recent and reliable CDC guidelines in making a decision,” said Jones to the board.

Earlier this month, the state adopted the latest public health guidelines of the U.S Centers for Disease Control and recommended universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

David Douglass, chair of the Topsham Board of Selectmen, was also at the meeting. He suggested the superintendent make a decision regarding the mask mandate based on directives from the Maine Center For Disease Control and Prevention.

“My son is out on the football field. He is with his coaches for five days this week, and he has never been with a high school teacher for more than two days. It would help if you were talking about the current education system tonight and not about masking mandates,” he said.

 

 

This story was updated at 1:45 p.m. Friday, August 20 to more accurately reflect David Douglass’s statement and correct the spelling of his last name. 

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