BETHEL — In an 8-7 vote, the SAD44 school board decided to mandate masks in district schools. They revisited the mask guidelines due to the rising number of cases of COVID in Maine.

Board member Marcy Winslow said that everyone’s goal is for the kids to be in school, and she felt obligated to come up with a solution so the kids can stay in school … they should mask.

One board member said the school board had no authority to make the decision, and it was to be left in the hands of Department of Human Services. When Superintendent David Murphy tried to explain he had spoken about this matter with an attorney, stating the school was in the right to make this decision as they were not conducting any negligence, he was cut off by an audience member, yelling to let the board member speak.

Thirty-five people from the community spoke. One of them Rosey, is a seventh grader from Telstar Middle School, who said, “Wearing a mask isn’t that hard or uncomfortable, better than watching [your] friend get COVID.”

Dr. Daniel Van Buren, a physician, spoke, saying, “The number of pediatric cases [has] increase[d] 400 percent. Twenty-five percent [of them] were pediatric cases…this is a question of personal responsibility, [for] the health and safety of our children.”

Phil Loto of Newry said his children were too scared to hug their own grandmother because of all the social distance laws put into effect, and fear tactics. He said this will cause mental and psychological issues. Following this, he said it is a dangerous precedent calling an emergency board meeting after one case detected. He urged everyone to think about the psychological long-term affects from masking.

Murphy reemphasized they were holding this meeting because of the number of COVID cases that were climbing in Maine. He said it was in the best interest of the students and staff to make the adjustments until things calm down.

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