JAY — During the Regional School Unit 73 Board meeting Thursday night, Sept. 9, Chairman Robert Staples said the board represents the students, staff and physical plant of RSU 73, not the will of voters.

“Given the local climate and some of the online attacks leveled at us, people saying that we’re not following what the taxpayers want, complaining about doing the survey then asking why bother if the results aren’t followed, I want to clear up some misunderstandings about the role of our school board members,” Staples said.

On Aug. 19, directors voted 6-5 that all people would wear face coverings inside buildings. A previous motion to permit personal choice on wearing masks was defeated with five in favor and six opposed.

On Aug. 12, directors tabled a decision on requiring masks be worn in Spruce Mountain schools. Many of those speaking at the meeting favored parental choice.

A survey on masking preference was distributed within the district prior to the Aug. 12 meeting. Staples had asked Superintendent Scott Albert to share results with the board.

From 940 responses received 589 were from parent/caregivers, 69 students, 233 staff and 63 community members.

Results showed:

• 169 want mandatory masking for all students and staff

• 140 want mandatory masking for any unvaccinated students or staff

• 580 want optional masking for all students and staff

• 112 want optional masking for only vaccinated students and staff (Some of these also answered about mandatory masking for any unvaccinated person)

“I felt that it would be another source of information that we could use in deciding how we would vote on the issue of masks,” Staples said Thursday. “Remember, the Maine Supreme Court has ruled that our school board members represent the students, staff and physical plant of RSU 73. We do not represent the will of the voters.”

Staples, Thursday referred to a principle set forth by Maine’s Supreme Court: “(T)he (school) committee acts as a public board. It in no sense represents the town. Its members are chosen by the voters of the town, but after their election they are public officers deriving their authority from the law and responsible to the State for the good faith and rectitude of their acts.”

“We have to do what is best for the students, staff and physical plant,” Staples said.

In other business, Director Joel Pike suggested a reorganization of traffic patterns for dropping students off, especially at the elementary school. With the number of cars waiting to turn into the school he worried someone could get hurt.

With Route 133 closed there is more traffic, Albert said. He will talk with School Resource Officer Darrin Gilbert.

In his report afterwards, Spruce Mountain Elementary School Principal Pat St. Clair noted a car had broken down on the first day of school. Student drop-off is down to 20 minutes and St. Clair has talked with Gilbert about getting help.

It was also announced that from among six applicants, Spruce Mountain High School alumni Hunter Dalton and Morgan Dalton had been selected to receive $1,000 Marcia and Louis Brown Scholarships. Director Phoebe Pike said Hunter is attending University of Maine at Farmington studying environmental sciences while Morgan is studying nursing at St. Joseph’s College of Maine.

“This was a very difficult decision to make; all of the applications we received were exceptional,” Phoebe Pike said.

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