FARMINGTON —Regional School Unit 9 directors chose Tuesday, Sept. 28, to keep present COVID-19 safety guidelines in place amid anti-masking concerns from parents in the board’s first check-in on the policies.

As the guidelines approved on Aug. 24 stand, all students and staff are required to wear face masks while indoors. Face shields are allowed according to the specifications of their Individualized Educational Plan/504 Plan or “with a medically documented need.”

Superintendent Chris Elkington and Director of Curriculum Laura Columbia suggested maintaining the guidelines because of rapidly increasing COVID-19 case numbers in Franklin County.

“So far, September has been the month with the highest average cases since January 2021 in Franklin County,” according to The New York Times. “Because of very high COVID-19 transmission in Franklin County right now, unvaccinated people are at a very high risk,” according to the newspaper.

Elkington said the universal masking mandate has, in part, prevented any in-school COVID-19 transmissions since the beginning of the school year.

However, parents and community members are still speaking out against the mandate. At the Sept. 14 meeting, former Director Jesse Sillanpaa resigned because he disagreed with the policy, among other reasons. Another parent raised similar concerns during the public comment session.


Earlier in the meeting, Director Kirk Doyle asked “given that we’ve seen n0 in-school transmissions, are we being too aggressive” with quarantining guidelines?

“Is the (Center for Disease Control) guidance hard and fast or is there some wiggle room?” he asked.

Columbia said the CDC guidelines “are very clear” now and the district cannot deviate from them.

Since the beginning of the school year, 228 students across the district have had to quarantine because of 32 positive cases.

Doyle also asked that the district provide better data on the number of students who have not had to quarantine specifically because of the universal masking mandate to affirm that the mandate is protecting students and decreasing the need for quarantining.

Some parents have also raised concerns about confusion over quarantining guidelines, which was addressed at the Sept. 14 meeting.


Columbia said the district has “realized a better system for explaining what exemption kids fall into when talking about quarantining” with parents of close contacts. These exemptions include close contacts who are vaccinated, participate in pooled testing or have tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days of the exposure.

Columbia also said the district has acquired BinaxNOW rapid tests and staff throughout the district are approved to administer them. The district will use rapid tests when a pool tests positive.

“There’s lots of options (for using the rapid tests) but we don’t have the capacity for them yet,” Columbia said.

The board also announced that Dee Robinson of Chesterville and Mark Prentiss of Industry have been appointed to the board following the resignations of Sillanpaa and Craig Stickney. Prentiss has previously served on the board.

In other business, Director Cherieann Harrison raised the topic of issues with traffic flow for parent drop off and pick up at W.G. Mallet School. She brought up the issue while the board was discussing how the district is applying to use American Rescue Plan/ESSER III grant funding.

Harrison said the board has talked about conducting a traffic study for quite some time and suggested the board make this issue a priority.

“We’ve had a lot of grants that have come through and this is something that’s been bypassed,” Harrison said.

Elkington said that application for this current grant was due the next day, Wednesday, Oct. 29, and it would not be possible to add this issue in. However, Elkington agreed the issue needed to be addressed and suggested it be focused on in future meetings.

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