Anne Bergeron, secretary at Edward Little High School in Auburn, prepares student laptops Tuesday for pickup. The computers are used for in-school and remote learning. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — The School Committee voted Wednesday night to accept a fall reentry plan that recommends but does not require universal masking.

The 6-2 vote came after several parents, educators and a retired family physician urged the committee to make masking a requirement.

No one from the public spoke in favor of making masks optional.

“By not putting a mask mandate in place, the School Committee is directly imperiling children in our city and I don’t know about you, but that feels wildly unacceptable to me,” resident Andrew Lewis said.

Dr. Peter Elias told the committee he had been involved in epidemiology and worked in a pediatric cancer ward.

“It’s adults who have a problem with masks, not children,” he said.

He noted that the rate of transmission is increasing and children do get COVID-19 and they get “long COVID,” a condition in which symptoms can last weeks or months and can appear weeks after infection.

“I encourage you to make a small sacrifice and mandate masks,” Elias said.

Parent Bethany Kezara, a registered nurse, suggested making masks part of the district’s dress code.

“It’s a minor thing we can do to keep kids in school,” she said.

Committee Chairwoman Karen Mathieu noted that masking is “a very polarizing topic. No matter what we do tonight, some people will be very happy and some will be very unhappy.”

Mathieu voted with the majority, along with Vice Chairman David Simpson and members Brian Belknap, Faith Fontaine, Dan Poisson and Mayor Jason Levesque who was acting as the City Council’s representative.

Those voting to make masking a recommendation said they believed it should be a choice made by parents, not the School Committee.

Masks were required last year, but when Gov. Janet Mills dropped the emergency order in June, masks were no longer required.

Members Pam Hart and Korin McGuigan voted against the motion to “recommend” masks.

Hart attempted to amend the motion to make indoor mask-wearing a requirement for children 12 and younger because they cannot yet get vaccinated.

The amendment failed 3-5, with Hart, McGuigan and Simpson voting in favor.

The  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all students and educators wear masks while indoors.

Under the plan approved Wednesday night, masks will be required for drivers and students on buses. Face shields can be used in place of masks by students with medical, behavioral or other challenges.

Classes are set to begin Sept. 1. All students are required to attend in person five days a week.

Remote instruction will be available for students in quarantine because of COVID-19 infections or close-contact designations.

The district adopted a hybrid model — part remote and part in-person instruction — for the 2020-21 school year because of the pandemic.

Some students struggled with remote instruction and might need extra help in the coming year.

“As students come fully back to school, there may be missed learning that needs to be addressed,” according to the reentry plan. “Teachers will be using assessment data to identify gaps in student learning and adjusting instruction accordingly.”

The Lewiston School Committee has voted to make masks optional. Portland and Bangor have voted to make them a requirement.

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.