TURNER — A survey sent to parents and staff in Maine School Administrative District 52 found the majority of respondents supported the district’s universal masking policy, Superintendent Kimberly Brandt told the Board of Directors at Thursday’s meeting.

The survey question read: “Do you favor MSAD 52’s implementation of the mandatory masking, as recommended by the (Maine Center for Disease Control), to keep more students and staff physically in school as much as possible?”

Of the 1,198 respondents, 65% said they were in favor of masking, 35% were not. Staff members tended to support the policy at a higher rate than parents, with 85% in favor compared to 61% of parents.

Although school officials were unable to calculate what percentage of parents and staff in the district participated in the survey, Brandt said the response rate was high. Several surveys sent to parents in the summer of 2020 regarding hybrid education garnered between 800 and 860 responses each.

The board approved a motion to send the survey to parents and staff Jan 6. The results were verified by matching parents’ and staff members’ names to their students and schools, as requested on the survey.

Some parents have been critical of the survey, saying both the question and the information provided were biased toward masking. Five individuals submitted public comments asking the board to remove the universal masking policy.

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Anthony Shostak of Greene expressed concerns that the survey did not contain any information on the detrimental impacts of masking on children.

“Parents have a reasonable expectation that they should be informed of known or suspected risks of a school policy about which they are being asked to offer comment,” Shostak’s letter read. “We have a right to know, and you have the responsibility to inform us.”

“No questions were asked about the effects of masking, no questions about kids’ mental health. No questions about anything other than (do you favor masking),” Katherine Libby wrote. “Wow, what a persuasive question that is, not even something straight forward.”

Director Richard Gross of Turner asked administrators whether “teachers (are) really enforcing the mask issues, or are they letting some of the kids violate it?”

“It’s basically all we do, all day, is remind kids ‘Good morning. Put your mask on. Good morning. Pull your mask up,'” Tripp Middle School Principal Jana Mates said. “It’s time-consuming and it definitely affects morale, but it’s the policy right now, and teachers are enforcing it at the middle school, I can say that.”

“For the most part, most of them are doing pretty well, and some are admittedly struggling,” she said.

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Other principals shared similar sentiments.

TEST SCORES AND GRADE REPORT

The board additionally received a report on fall standardized test scores and first quarter or trimester grades.

In response to the presentation, Gross said he was shocked by some of the scores.

“I would hope that somebody is addressing the issues at those grade levels where we saw those low, low scores,” he said.

Many of the low test scores and passing standards were found among elementary grades; middle and high school tended to be higher.

Assistant Superintendent Theresa Gillis acknowledged that student writing in particular has been affected by learning disruptions in the last two years, adding that administrators and teachers are looking at ways to improve.

Chairwoman Betsy Bullard also commented that fall standardized testing occurs soon after students return to school. Gillis said she was eager to see how winter and spring scores will compare.


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