Freeport High School. File photo

Like other school districts across Maine, Regional School Unit 5 is crafting a reopening plan to manage the return to classrooms in the midst of the state’s latest COVID-19 surge.

School board officials are scheduled to vote next week on a plan that includes a masking requirement in school buildings for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status.

The meeting be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25, in the Freeport High School cafeteria.

RSU 5 includes Durham, Pownal and Freeport. The district is bringing back students for five days a week, in-person learning on Aug. 30.

In a Q&A forum with parents on Tuesday, Superintendent Becky Foley said that she is recommending the mask requirement based on current data and guidelines from the Center of Disease Control and Department of Education.

“One thing for certain is that COVID is very uncertain,” said Foley. “The data that I’m receiving from the DOE or CDC is changing frequently.”


The uptick in Maine COVID-19 cases is attributed to the delta variant, a more-contagious strain of the virus. The current Maine CDC guidelines align with the federal recommendation that all students, staff, teachers and visitors wear a mask while indoors in schools.

Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designates the transmission risk in Cumberland County as “substantial,” a classification that corresponds with that recommendation that everyone, regardless of vaccination, wear a mask in indoor, public settings.

Androscoggin County, which encompasses Durham, is designated as “moderate.”

“During the past school year, masking and other protocols helped to keep our schools safe,” Foley said in a statement to the community. “The majority of COVID cases in RSU5 originated from contacts outside of school, not from within. Like last year, with everyone’s cooperation, we can have a successful return to five-day instruction this fall.”

During the online forum, parents asked a range of questions about the reopening plan, some speaking favorably of masking, others less so. Public comment will also be available at the Aug. 25 meeting.

In total, 67 COVID-19 cases were recorded throughout the district last year.


At the meeting, the board will also be discussing a vaccine requirement among school staff, although Foley said she does not know of any other districts in Maine that have implemented that rule.

On Tuesday, the Topsham-area school board approved a masking requirement. The Bath-area school board is scheduled to vote on Monday, and Brunswick will vote this Wednesday.

Maine towns that have decided not to require masks include Madison and Lewiston.

According to the Maine CDC, just under 70% of Maine residents had received a final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday. The CDC estimates that 99% of eligible Freeport residents, 95% eligible Pownal residents and 92% of Durham residents are fully vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, 73,087 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in total statewide, alongside 909 deaths.

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