LEWISTON — Just weeks after the School Committee voted to keep masks optional in Lewiston classrooms, School Superintendent Jake Langlais has indicated he will seek to reverse that decision.

Lewiston Superintendent Jake Langlais opens a new shipment of iPads and laptops at Connors Elementary School in October 2020. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

In a Facebook post Wednesday night, Langlais wrote that when the committee meets Thursday night he will make the following recommendation:

“Mask wearing is required of ALL schools during school hours determined by the level of community transmission being moderate, substantial or high. When community transmission is low, community information will be assessed to make a determination on masking requirements.”

On Aug. 2, the committee voted — narrowly — to leave the choice on masking up to parents and students. Langlais, in his Facebook post, said the situation has changed since then.

“When the language of the recommendation was shared publicly in July, followed by multiple community forums, sharing information on various outlets, and a School Committee meeting with a vote — information changed,” he wrote. “The CDC is tracking community transmission and has given us a scale that gets regular updates to inform decisions.”

Langlais, in a seven-page report uploaded to the School Department’s Google Drive, outlined conditions under which full masking mandates will be put in place. In addition to his recommendations, Langlais also included some other possible policies on masking.

In what he called Option B, the superintendent wrote: “Mask-wearing is required at all elementary schools (due to the inability to vaccinate under the age of 12) during school hours. Mask-wearing at (Lewiston Middle School) and (Lewiston High School) is recommended but may be mandated as determined by the level of community transmission being moderate, substantial, or high. When community transmission is low, community information will be assessed to make a determination on masking requirements.”

In Option C, mask-wearing would be recommended at all schools, with mandates subject to being enacted as determined by local information that includes the level of community transmission be substantial or high.

Within minutes of Langlais’ posting Wednesday night, some parents responded with criticisms of his apparent reverse of opinion.

“Absolutely ridiculous,” wrote Twyla Murphy. “If you are going to require masks, you should allow remote learning. It can’t be any more short-staffed than it was last year. As a community we have gone maskless since May — why require masks when coming back to school when no one’s been wearing them for months now.”

Yet, another woman challenged that argument, saying, “Not everyone has gone without masks since May, especially inside.”

The issue of masks in schools has been a divisive one since discussions began over the summer. The Aug. 2 vote to reject mask mandates in Lewiston schools was rejected by a 5-4 vote, and came after nearly two and half hours of debate.

Heated words have already been exchanged this week among School Committee members. Tempers flared Monday night as the divided committee grappled with whether to allow votes on the masking issue in light of the changing COVID-19 situation.

The School Committee will hold an emergency meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Connors Elementary School to discuss its previous decision to make masking optional when schools open Sept. 1.

Also scheduled is a parent forum on the matter, a meeting slated for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30.

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