RUMFORD — The Regional School Unit 10 board of directors Tuesday approved continuing mandatory masking in schools when students are present to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The measure was initially approved at the end of August with reviews done monthly based on the latest state data and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the August vote, Michelle Casey of Buckfield, Chad Culleton of Hartford, Justeen LaPointe of Roxbury, Bill Hobson of Rumford and Jennifer Adams of Sumner opposed the mandate.

On Tuesday, Casey and Hobson voted against it again. Adams and Lapointe were absent.

Voting in favor Tuesday were Greg Buccina, Abbey Rice and Dan Hodge, all of Rumford; Jerry Wiley of Buckfield, Gail Parent of Hanover, Chad Culleton of Hartford, and Bonnie Child, Peter DeFilipp and Janet Brennick, all of Mexico.

Before the vote, Superintendent Alden said, “Right now, we’ve had multiple positive cases.” Masking remains the recommendation from the CDC and from western Maine superintendents, she said.

“When I wrote this, 15 out of 16 counties in Maine are red,” Alden said, indicating the highest level of transmission of the virus. Oxford County’s vaccination rate is 63%, but still below the state average, she said.

Because of the high levels of COVID-19 transmission in Oxford County and most other Maine counties, and the lower vaccination rate in Oxford County, she recommended continued masking.

“We can hope that things turn around in October,” Alden said. “I mean, we have to have hope.”

She will review the mandate through the end of October and the board will vote on the requirement at its meeting Oct. 25.

In other business, Alden accepted the resignation of Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert during the meeting. Gilbert has worked at the Rumford school for 21 years. In his letter of resignation he said the school has been “a positive constant” in his life and he will always be grateful for the opportunities it has provided him and his family.

He has accepted the job of assistant superintendent for Regional School Unit 2 in Hallowell. It also includes the  Kennebec County towns of Dresden, Farmingdale, Monmouth and Richmond.

After an executive session, directors voted to proceed with a search for a new principal beginning early 2022. Alden will plan interim coverage after Gilbert’s departure, which is expected in the next 45 days, she said by email Wednesday.

In another matter, directors approved using $619,714 in state subsidy received after the 2021-22 school budget vote in June. Alden said part of it pay for “upfront costs” for a new school building for prekindergarten through grade 8 students. If voters approve the project, it would be built most likely in the spring of 2023.

Other uses for the money include covering the food service debt and paying employees’ salaries in the summer months, Alden said.


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