Students attending public schools in Rockport and Camden will be required to wear face masks this year in accordance with a newly adopted reopening plan.
The school boards representing the Five Town Community School District and School Administrative District 28, which together oversee three schools in Camden and Rockport, approved the reopening plan by votes of 9-0 and 6-0, respectively, at a joint meeting Tuesday night.
The school districts are the latest in Maine to adopt a universal masking policy for the 2021-22 school year, as school boards are left to make the decisions in the absence of state mandates.
“[Universal masking has] been shown to be one of the safest measures against the spread of the disease and we’re in an environment where we’re responsible for 1,400 students and 300 adults, that’s a lot of people,” Superintendent Maria Libby said. “It’s a fairly simple safety measure that’s just an extra precaution.”
Earlier this week, other school boards in the midcoast region made similar decisions. On Monday Belfast-based Regional School Unit 71 voted to adopt a universal masking policy that will be evaluated on a monthly basis by school officials.
The school district serving the town of St. George also passed a reopening plan Monday that called for staff and students to wear masks while in school regardless of vaccination status.
The plan passed Tuesday night by the Five Town CSD/SAD 28 school boards requires universal masking for both students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors.
The plan also calls for daily medical screenings and social distancing of up to three feet when possible. The district will only utilize pool testing for students participating in athletic programs and other extracurricular activities, according to the plan.
“We’re planning on having a relatively normal school year except that everyone will be in masks indoors,” Libby said. “If we need to adjust, we will.”
The plan will apply to Camden Hills Regional High School, Camden-Rockport Middle School and Camden-Rockport Elementary School.
Only two local residents commented during the meeting ― which lasted less than an hour ― with one person in favor of adopting the plan for masking and one advocating for the district to leave the choice up to parents.
The plan gives the superintendent authority to make adjustments to the plan as needed, though any major change would be brought back to the school board.
Libby said she doesn’t want to require masks if it gets to a point where they are not necessary. However, she said at this time it’s unclear what matrices would be used to make that determination.
“As conditions change we will adapt accordingly,” she said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the vote count for the School Administrative District 28 board.