SABATTUS — Members of Regional School Unit 4 board will make a presentation and take questions from residents of Sabattus, Wales and Litchfield on the district’s universal masking policy.

The public forum will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the gymnasium at Sabattus Primary School and run for 45 minutes. It will be followed by the board meeting at 7:15 p.m. All in-person attendees are required to wear a mask.

In a message to the school community Monday, board Chairman Robert English wrote that the forum was scheduled so the board could explain why members decided to implement universal masking. Attendees will have two minutes each to comment on the policy or ask a question.

Board members will be able to respond directly to residents during the forum, unlike during the public comment section of the board meetings.

“During the past several school board meetings, some individuals have used the public comment period to question and demand that the board change its position on masking,” English wrote. “The public comment period at the board meetings is an opportunity for public comments, it is not a time for discussion or Q&A between the public and board members. As a result, there seems to be some misinformation in the community as to why the board has directed universal masking.”

The forum follows a confrontation between English and attendees at the Oct. 27 board meeting. English left the meeting five minutes after it was set to begin after one of about 16 attendees refused to wear a mask or leave, effectively ending the meeting before it was called to order. This was the latest in a series of tense board meetings related to the school’s masking policy this fall.

Tiffany Hurd, who has three children in the district, is planning to attend the forum Wednesday. She said the school community has felt unheard by the school board and hopes the forum will prompt further conversations about the district’s masking policy.

“The tension and emotions in the community have really become supercharged throughout the early part of this school year, in large part because the community is feeling unrepresented and unheard by the school board,” she said. “I think that if the school board is willing to really listen to what parents and the community have to say with an open mind and a heart for serving those that they represent, that this could be a great opportunity to begin working together toward options that can keep our students reasonably safe while also respecting their freedoms.”

Residents can participate in the forum and meeting by attending in person, joining through Zoom, or watching the YouTube livestream. Zoom attendees will be able to participate in the comment and question period remotely.

Robert English, chairman of the Regional School Unit 4 board, released a letter Monday inviting the school community to a public forum at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sabattus Primary School.

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