LEWISTON — An attempt to adapt the school district’s fall reopening plan to require masks in buildings was voted down 5-4 on Monday night.

The School Committee voted 5-4 on Aug. 2 to make mask-wearing optional. Those in favor cited parental and personal rights as a reason for not requiring masks.

Susan St. Hilaire, a teacher at Lewiston High School, told the committee Monday that people also have the right to be in classrooms that are as free from the virus as possible.

“We also have the right to feel safe,” she said.

Under the reopening plan, remote instruction will not be an option. All students and educators are expected to return to five-day-a-week, in-person classes.

Lisa Padulo, a sixth-grade teacher at Montello Elementary School, told the committee she was “very disappointed” in its decision Aug. 2. She noted that Portland and Bangor school districts have announced that they will require masks.

“I can’t wrap my brain around the idea that we as educators are not stepping up immediately to do whatever it takes to protect children who are unvaccinated,” Padulo said.

She added, “Masking is the one thing that will keep us all in school in person.”

Matt Jadud, the father of a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old in the Lewiston Public Schools system, told the committee that cases of COVID-19 in Maine are rising exponentially at the same curve as the rest of the nation. New cases are mostly affecting young people, he said.

“Lewiston Public Schools should follow federal and state (Centers for Disease Control) and (Maine Department of Education) recommendations,” Jadud said.

The U.S. CDC has recommended that all schools require masks inside buildings.

“It feels to me like asking everyone to wear a mask is a low bar at this point,” Jadud said. “It protects all members of our community.”

He wondered what the district’s thresholds for infection, hospitalization and death would be for the committee to commit to masks.

“You are the people who decided,” he said.

After hearing from these speakers Monday and from many others in the community since Aug. 2, member Kiernan Majerus-Collins attempted to suspend the rules so the committee could address the “changing landscape,” including the spread of the dangerous delta variant.

“Circumstances have changed (since Aug 2),” he said. “Androscoggin County has gone from a moderate to a substantial rate of transmission.”

Superintendent Jake Langlais noted that the plan adopted by the committee includes a “wait and see” clause that could prompt a change in the decision of whether to require masks.

However, none of the members who voted Aug. 2 to make masking optional addressed the issue.

Chairwoman Megan Parks, Vice Chairman Bruce Damon, member Tanya Whitlow and new members Janet Beaudoin and Luke Jensen, both appointed by Mayor Mark Cayer, voted against Majerus-Collins’ motion.

Parks, Damon, Lynnea Hawkins and Beaudoin, along with Ron Potvin, voted in favor of optional masking at the Aug. 2 meeting.

Potvin voted with members Majerus-Collins, Lynnea Hawkins and Paul Beauparlant on Monday.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.