TURNER — Despite pleas from several people in the audience Thursday night, the Maine School Administrative District 52 board of directors did not take action to lift the district’s mask mandate.

The requests from seven community members and two students held renewed energy following a briefing Wednesday where Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the state would consider changing its recommendation for universal masking to optional masking if the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline. Some schools have announced this week that they will be ending universal masking.

However, even if the state’s recommendation changes, the school board would still need a majority vote to alter the district’s universal masking policy.

Despite several requests for a vote, none of the directors proposed changing the masking policy, and the meeting was adjourned to the disappointment of many attendees.

Board chairwoman Elizabeth Bullard pointed to the results of the district’s masking survey conducted in the last month as one reason not to alter the policy Thursday night. Sixty-five percent of the 1,198 respondents voted in favor of masks.

However, some parents were critical of the wording and execution of the survey, believing it to be biased toward universal masking.


During public comment, Katherine Libby of Greene said her eighth grade son recently agreed to be home-schooled after deciding he no longer wanted to attend school in person.

“He, finally, at 13-years-old was like, ‘I don’t want to do this any more.’ He hit that wall, and he stopped going to school,” she said. “Finally he was like, ‘you can homeschool me.’ This was our first week, and it’s been exciting and he’s so pumped that he doesn’t have to wear a mask, and I feel great that I have one less kid that is having to endure that this school year.”

Her other two kids attend Tripp Middle School and Leavitt High School.

Libby has communicated extensively with school administrators, parents and students. She said she has collected email messages from 161 MSAD 52 students over the last week who do not wish to continue masking.

She offered to share the messages with the board of directors.

“I (know) several kids that would be willing to do a walk-out or a walk-in maskless, but they’re trying to have respect for administration,” she said.


Casey Blay of Turner complemented the district for how it handled schooling during the pandemic, additionally asking the board to vote on the masking policy.

“We moved here last year from Sabattus, and I will tell you hands down in the middle of the pandemic the transition was the best I could have ever imagined … I just want to say that first and foremost because I know you guys don’t expect to hear that all the time.”

He argued that if Switzerland, which he said is a leading country in health and medicine, is eliminating its pandemic restricts, MSAD 52 should as well.

His third grade daughter, Amelia, also briefly spoke, saying she did not like wearing masks in school.

Una Shostak, a home-schooled student in the district, also shared brief comments against the masking policy.

“Masks are harmful,” she said. “I know this, because I’ve experienced it. You need to stop ignoring us. Children have a voice and it needs to be heard. Thank you.”


Through the meeting the speakers were polite, however, directors faced some heckling at the end when it became apparent that there would not be a vote on the masking policy.

“Cowards!” yelled one individual immediately after adjournment.

Since the briefing Wednesday, some schools have decided to end their mask mandates, including a district based in Oakland and Maine’s Catholic schools. Lewiston Superintendent Jake Langlais said he was preparing to bring an optional masking recommendation before the School Committee as early as Feb. 28.

“The risk of transmission in schools is tied to the overall level of COVID in the community. As COVID rates in the community come down, the risk of transmission in schools comes down and thus, the need for masking goes down,” Shah said Wednesday.

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