At its meeting on Monday evening, the MSAD 44 School Board voted to strongly recommend the wearing of masks for students and staff for the start of the school year but not to mandate that they be worn. Mask wearing will be required on all school buses however as this is a federal regulation. As a safety precaution, we do recommend that parents continue to support masking for their children but that decision will be left to the discretion of individual families as the result of the action taken by the School Board. To begin the school year, visitors to our schools will be limited and field trips will continue to be put on hold. The impact of the Delta variant will continue to be carefully monitored and, as has been the case for the past 18 months, the situation remains fluid and we will continue to amend and adjust as needed in order to maintain a consistent opportunity for our schools to remain open.
With the emphasis being placed on a return to classroom instruction for all Maine students, MSAD 44 like many districts across the state is not offering a remote option for the 2021-2022 school year.
With the end of the Governor’s Emergency Order earlier this summer, the question of masking was no longer mandated and that decision was deferred to individual school districts. Feelings on both sides of this issue have been passionate and strong and in many places, the School Board meetings that have been held when deciding this matter have been contentious and confrontational. I was proud of our community members and our school board for the professional and respectful way that the meeting on Monday was conducted. Although the same strong feelings were present, they were conveyed in a very appropriate manner. A full viewing of the meeting is available on this link, if you did not have the opportunity to attend or view it Monday evening.
We will also be taking steps to limit the number of students who may need to be quarantined this year by again working with area health agencies to coordinate additional opportunities for our students to receive the vaccine, if their parents are seeking that option. We will also be offering families the opportunity to participate in a pooled testing program being offered by the state. More details about that program will be made available in the next few days in an Alert that will be sent by Tanya Arsenault, Crescent Park School principal. Ms. Arsenault took the lead on this effort as we completed our transition in our nursing department over the summer. To that end, I am pleased to inform you that Ms. Rosemary Wiser has been hired as the new district nurse for MSAD 44 and Ms. Chris Cole has agreed to stay on in a consulting role to provide additional assistance and expertise as we continue to address the challenges being faced by this new variant.
These are challenging times and the various decisions being made on masking are creating concerns and challenges as school districts across the state prepare to reopen in the coming days.
Your ongoing flexibility has been greatly appreciated as we have navigated these troubled times together and we ask for your continued support as we welcome our students back to our schools on September 1 and prepare for the upcoming school year.
On a final note, please be advised that beginning on September 1, we will be transitioning to a new Alert system. It will be a bit different than the one we have all become used to but it appears that your contact information will be included automatically in the transition. There may be some test messages that are sent out as we acclimate to the new program but we believe it will allow us to provide a better overall approach to keeping you informed as the year progresses.
Best wishes for a terrific school year.