Topsham-based MSAD 75 school board members during a special school board meeting on Thursday. Payal Gangishetti / The Times Record

Students and staff within the Topsham-based Maine School Administrative District 75 won’t be going without face coverings any time soon.

On Thursday, the board voted 10-3 to continue universal masking at all MSAD 75 school buildings until the superintendent deems it appropriate to drop the mandate.

Interim Superintendent Robert Lucy said he decided to keep the current mask mandate because of the surge in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks in the school district. There were 18 additional positive cases, 309 additional close contacts and 93 students quarantined between Oct. 5 and Oct. 21, said Lucy.

The district, which serves Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Topsham and Harpswell, currently has 32 positive cases, 607 close contacts and 154 quarantines.

“We had only 154 quarantines of 607 close contacts because we were following universal masking,” said Lucy. “We had 50 quarantine exceptions for pooled testing and 157 exceptions for fully vaccinated and 242 universal masking exceptions and four were a 90-day previous infection.”

He added that 1,265 or 53% of the students in the district do not have the opportunity to get vaccinated because they are younger than 12 years old.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 12 years and older get a COVID-19 vaccination.

“To keep our students in school so that they are able to maintain the continuity of learning, it would be my recommendation that we continue universal masking and keep layers in place with the safety mitigation strategies that we have,” said Lucy.

In August, board members narrowly voted in favor of the mask requirement and decided to revisit the mandate in October.

Board member Kimberly Totten said she was worried that the superintendent is spending more time finding doctors, gathering data and sending out letters for close contacts when he should be talking with building administrators, giving them the support, they need to educate the kids.

“Usually, by this time, we have had a facilities meeting looking at what we need to do to make our building safe and our district functioning,” Totten said. “We are behind because all we talk about and focus on is mask mandates and what is going on with COVID-19. We need to educate our kids, and we need to get back to doing the business of education, maintain our facility, and get ourselves going in the right direction.”

As of Thursday, there were 1,940 COVID-19 cases recorded in Sagadahoc County; 1,441 are confirmed cases, 499 are probable cases, 12 deaths, and 34 hospitalizations, according to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the neighboring Brunswick town council rejected the indoor mask mandate for all public spaces last month, face coverings are still required in all town-owned or leased buildings as well as school buildings in Brunswick.

Brian Robertson, a high school student at Mt. Ararat High School, who asked the board members to reconsider the mask mandate, said he is confused about why a mask mandate is necessary at the high school.

“At our high school, we have resources to keep ourselves safe and stay in school,” said Robertson. “The vaccine is available for all high school students unless exempt. Pooled testing is also available to all high school students. If you are scared of getting COVID-19 or scared of being sent home, simply participate in the pooled testing or get the vaccine,” said Robertson.

“The students are scared to be sent home by the nurse. They do not want to go outside during the mask breaks because they are scared that their noses are going to run and will be sent home by the nurse,” he said. “There are coaches that have told players not to touch equipment during practice because they are not vaccinated.”

Jason Prince, an English teacher at Mt. Ararat High School, said he is relieved that the board has decided to keep the mask mandate.

“When the student has to go remote or the whole school goes remote to quarantine, it is not effective learning. I am happy that we are sticking with the mandate and having the kids to stay in school,” Prince.

He added that it is important to have masks on because it’s not about individual choice. It’s about community protection.


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