Winter athletes in Regional School Unit 1 will have to continue wearing a face mask while playing, but the school board will revisit the decision and whether additional measures like mandatory pooled testing could help protect students from COVID-19 next month.

After an hour-long discussion Monday, the Bath-area school board voted 5-2 to keep masks mandatory for all winter athletes with the exception of swimmers while in the pool. The board also didn’t implement any restrictions for spectators.

Board members asked Athletic Director Nate Priest to research whether additional measures, such as mandatory pooled testing or limiting the number of spectators at events, could further protect athletes. Pierce will present his findings for the board to review next month.

RSU 1 serves Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg and Woolwich.

Three RSU 1 parents spoke at the meeting, all of whom asked the board to consider other options that could loosen the mask requirement for student athletes.

Maureen Craney, president of the Morse High School All-Sports Boosters Club, asked the board to consider allowing masks to be optional for student athletes who are fully vaccinated or participating in pooled testing.


About 69% of RSU 1 student athletes are vaccinated against COVID-19 and 51% participate in the pooled testing program the district offers, according to RSU 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel.

“If we can get all athletes in pooled testing because that’s what they need to do to not wear a mask, that’s a win for me because I know those kids are already playing with other kids or going to sleepovers or getting in cars (with people) who aren’t wearing masks,” said Karen D’Silva, a parent of two RSU 1 students. “Just because you’re saving them from contact in school doesn’t mean the rest of the time, they’re not having close contact with people who aren’t wearing masks.”

Though some parents and board members agreed students are tired of wearing masks, and they can slip off a student’s nose while playing, Dr. Amina Hanna, a Mid Coast Hospital pediatrician who has been advising the district throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, insisted dropping the mask requirement now isn’t in the best interest of students.

“I understand that everyone is tired of COVID-19,” said Hanna. “I have a high schooler and we as a family are tired of it, but just because we’re feeling tired of it doesn’t mean we give up. If keeping sports and school going means wearing a mask, that seems like a small price to pay to not have a season or school shut down.”

Hanna said masks neither guarantee 100% protection from COVID-19 nor a substitute for a vaccine or pooled testing. They are, however, an important layer of protection for students.

When setting their COVID-19 policies for winter athletes, RSU 1 followed the Maine Principal’s Association guidelines, which include mandatory masking. The association continues to strongly recommend student athletes get vaccinated or participate in pooled testing, but The association’s director, Michael Burnham, told The Times Record earlier this month it’s up to local school districts to make the final call on what COVID-19 restrictions they want to place on student athletes.


Portland High School and Deering High School, for example, require all winter athletes to wear a mask while playing and either get vaccinated or participate in pooled testing. Cony High School in Augusta requires its winter athletes to wear a mask and participate in pooled testing.

In neighboring Maine School Administrative District 75, all winter athletes and spectators are required to wear a mask, but athletes are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and participate in the pooled testing program.

Brunswick schools require all unvaccinated and partially vaccinated winter athletes to wear a mask except for swimmers when they’re in the water and wrestlers when they’re grappling. If winter athletes are vaccinated, however, masks aren’t required in basketball, ice hockey, indoor track or squash while actively playing after December 23, according to the district’s website. Masks are still required to be worn by everyone when players are practicing, on the bench or in locker rooms.

Athletic Director Nathan Priest said 113 of 140 total RSU 1 winter athletes responded to a survey regarding their feelings on wearing masks while playing. Of those who responded, 92 students said they wouldn’t be concerned if masks were optional while playing, but 21 disagreed.

In a section of the survey where students could write their own responses, Priest said some students wrote they’d rather have masks be optional for students who are enrolled in pooled testing or fully vaccinated, or merely because it’s difficult to wear a mask while playing a sport.

Students who said they’d like masks to remain mandatory wrote they feel doing otherwise would be “irresponsible” and “seems like an unnecessary risk as masks help reduce cases.”


“In general, we know masks work; they decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” said Hanna. “We have this tool in our arsenal we can use to keep kids and staff safe and it seems that now, when COVID-19 rates are increasing so substantially within our state, now isn’t the time to relax things.”

Maine now has the 8th highest rate of COVID-19 infections in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the past seven days, Maine has reported an average of 68 cases per day for every 100,000 residents. The national daily infection rate for last seven days is 40 cases per 100,000 people, the Portland Press Herald Reported.

Since November 29, RSU 1 schools have reported 56 cases in total, causing 130 people to quarantine after they were identified as close contacts, according to Manuel.

Morse High School and Bath Tech have seen a combined 24 cases, the most in the district, followed by Woolwich Central School, which has reported 10 cases since November 29. Nine individuals within Bath Middle School have tested positive for COVID-19, six within Dike Newell School, and five cases have come from Phippsburg Elementary School. Fisher Mitchell School has seen only two cases in the last month.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Maine in March 2020, 2,821 people within Sagadahoc County have tested positive for COVID-19 and 18 have died as of Tuesday, according to the Maine CDC. Statewide, 137,959 Mainers have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020 and 1,463 have died as of Tuesday.

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