MSAD 58 drops mask requirements

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PHILLIPS – As the first day of school approaches, the MSAD 58 School Board has announced that face masks and coverings will be recommended but not required within the district. This decision was made during the school board meeting on August 19 after more than an hour of public comment. Requirements and recommendations from the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Center for Disease Control were taken into account while making this decision.

Some parents with students enrolled in the school district were enthusiastic about the news, while others expressed deep concern about the safety of their children and others within the district, including teachers and staff.

“The goal is for our students to be in our schools as much as possible,” Superintendent Todd Sanders said in a letter to the public that was released on August 20. He went on to say that MSAD 58 would not be offering a virtual or remote education option at this time.

The guidelines, recommendations, and requirements can change rapidly. The school board and administration may need to make changes to their operating procedures to ensure the safety and well-being of students and staff, as well as members of the community, he said.

Daily “self checks” for symptoms of COVID-19 are expected from both students and staff before boarding busses or entering any MSAD 58 facility. Masking will be required on all MSAD 58 busses. Individuals who display symptoms of COVID-19 will be expected to stay home and consult with their primary care provider about testing and other steps. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be expected to isolate at home until they meet the criteria to return to school, as determined by the Maine CDC.

While the school board decided not to require masks, Superintendent Sanders said in his letter that universal masking, vaccinations, social distancing, and proper hygiene continue to be emphasized at all levels within the school.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only one of three available options that has received full FDA approval, for individuals aged 16 and up. This approval was granted on August 23. The Pfizer vaccine will continue to be available under the Emergency Use Authorization for children aged 12 and over.

“Regardless of your personal opinion pertaining to any aspect of this pandemic, please rest assured knowing that all of us working in MSAD 58 will make every effort possible to ensure the safest possible educational setting,” Superintendent Sanders wrote. Ongoing communication continues to be essential, and the district will make use of the website, social media platforms, and other correspondences to keep the school community updated on any changes that may be implemented.

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