TURNER — After two-and-a-half hours of sometimes heated debate kicked off by the superintendent proposing mandatory mask-wearing indoors this fall — and being loudly booed by members of the audience — School Administrative District 52 directors voted 7-2 to back Kimberly Brandt’s school opening proposal late Thursday night.

MSAD 52 Superintendent Kimberly Brandt speaks at Thursday night’s board meeting at Leavitt Area High School in Turner. Video screenshot

More than 20 parents and students spoke at Leavitt Area High School during public comments that were evenly split for and against face coverings.

Parents complained that “masks have been crushing for students,” that they don’t stop COVID-19 transmission and that masking prevented students from seeing each others’ smiles and facial expressions.

“If we can put the masks on and it (COVID) goes away, I’m all for it, but it didn’t work last time,” one parent said.

One student said he’d experienced “headaches, dizziness, nausea, fainting and the inability to think clearly” from wearing a mask.

Other students stood to say they didn’t mind wearing them, one saying it was her way to look out for others.


One parent who works as an occupational therapist said before the vaccine, all she had to rely on was a mask to protect herself.

“I’ve spent a lot of time exposed to other people’s bodily fluids only to find out I’ve been exposed to COVID,” she said. “And over and over again I didn’t get sick. . . My 10-year-old can’t get a vaccine, and we don’t have data on the delta virus.”

Under the mandate, masks will be required on students and staff indoors and while on buses and vans.

Brandt said her hope with the plan was both to keep students and staff safe as they return to school in-person five days a week and to limit the number of people who have to stay home due to close contact exposure.

“Quarantining is disruptive,” she said. “Some people did it multiple times last year.”

With mandatory masking, close contacts in the classroom are defined as people 3 feet away or closer. The district will continue to trace close contacts but people only have to quarantine for 10 days under certain circumstances, she said.


“It’s a pain, for sure, and certainly (there are) lots of different opinions on masks — I’m not sure that opinions equate to facts,” board Chairwoman Betsy Bullard said. “Science is something that we’re watching unfold in real time. . . . As we learn more, we learn more.”

She was one of five board members wearing a mask during the meeting, which had both an audience in-person and nearly 200 people streaming at times online.

After the vote, there was loud grumbling and a shout of, “We’re going to vote every one of you out!”

Pressed on when the board would revisit its decision, Bullard said that timeline depends upon the conditions of the pandemic.

Asked what would happen to students who don’t wear them, she said that would be up to building administrators.

The district has nearly 2,000 students in Turner, Leeds and Greene. The first day of school for grades kindergarten to seven and nine is Sept. 1. Grades kindergarten to 12 have school on Sept. 2 and prekindergarten starts Sept. 7.

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