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Lewiston school committee votes to make masks optional for students, staff this fall

The school committee voted 5 to 4 Monday night to adopt a plan that calls for optional masking at Lewiston schools

LEWISTON, Maine — The Lewiston School Committee voted to approve a plan at its meeting Monday night which will call for optional masking for students and staff upon return this fall. 

The committee voted 5 to 4 in favor of the plan proposed by Lewiston Superintendent Jake Langlais. Members spent about two hours debating the topic and hearing public comment.

"I don't believe we, as a board, have a right to tell parents that in order for their children to attend public school in-person, that they need to wear a mask," said school committee member Janet Beaudoin. 

Not all committee members agreed with the superintendent's proposal however. Committee member Kiernan Majerus-Collins introduced an amendment to the proposal to require masks for all students, however that failed.

"That strikes me as a profound injustice for our youngest students, and for parents who are parents who are interested in ensuring that their kids are safe," said Majerus-Collins.

Multiple parents also gave public comment on this issue, with a mix of support and opposition of the proposal.

"I think if parents make the choice that they feel it's okay for their students to go without a mask a mask on then I think it should be okay," said Sarah Pomerleau, who has two children attending Lewiston High School in the fall.

"Just having a universal policy at this point and also following federal CDC guidelines I think is really vital in keeping our kids safe," said Allison Lytton, the director of family engagement at Connors Elementary in Lewiston, and a parent of two elementary aged children. Lytton also serves as president of the Lewiston Education Association teachers union.

"I think an ounce of prevention can really make a difference down the road," added Lytton.

Lewiston's first day of school for students in grades 1-9 is September 1. Students in grades 10-12 return on September 2. All students will be back five days a week, and there will not be a remote learning option due to staffing shortages.

"We have 167 currently unfilled position. We will not have the ability to provide remote learning to our students," said Langlais.