PHILLIPS – Parents of students in the MSAD 58 district are rallying against a recent decision to not require face masks this year; the decision was made by the MSAD 58 Board of Directors and was announced to the public several weeks ago.
MSAD 58 serves roughly 665 students from Phillips, Avon, Kingfield, and Strong. They are one of six districts in the state that have decided against the CDC’s recommendation of universal masking while indoors. There are approximately 270 districts statewide, and alongside MSAD 58 the districts of Auburn, Calais, SAD 27, SAD 70, RSU 4 and RSU 89 have opted out of the mandate.
While the indoor masking mandate is not yet required by the CDC, it has been a strongly recommended protocol since early August. The newest strain of COVID-19- the Delta Variant- has proven to be more contagious for children than the previous version and only 66 percent of Maine’s population is currently vaccinated. Children under the age of 12 are still not eligible to receive the vaccine.
In MSAD 58 parent Adam Masterman’s opinion, that fact alone is enough to require the mask policy.
“Their decision took away the one thing that would protect her,” Masterman said of his 11-year-old daughter.
Masterman also has a daughter at the high school level, and he and his wife work in separate neighboring districts. Last year they made the decision to be fully remote because of the amount of exposure their family was going to see. Masterman said he wasn’t expecting the board of directors to go against the recommendations this year. Now his family has to make difficult decisions again based on the lack of a mandate.
A number of parents have signed a petition asking the board to reconsider; so far the petition has gained more than 200 signatures. Parents on the other side of the fence, those who support not requiring masks, put together a similar petition three weeks ago that received roughly 160 signatures.
Superintendent Todd Sanders said board members were fully aware of the CDC recommendations, and that they were provided lots of information before making their decision.
“Certainly people have the right to have their voice heard. This is why we have these processes in place,” Sanders said.
Board Chair Kim Jordan did not respond to requests for comment.
The next board meeting will be held Sept. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Strong Elementary School.