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Maine music teachers want state to allow singers to sing indoors safely

According to Maine DOE guidelines, singing should not take place indoors. Singers can sing outdoors while wearing masks and social distancing.

MAINE, Maine — Maine school music teachers say current state guidelines are making it hard to produce music, especially singing.

"Although we've been given a lot of great technology tools to use, technology can't keep up with audio so well," said Sandra Barry, music teacher and president of the Maine Music Educators Association.

According to the Maine Department of Education's guidelines, singers should only sing outdoors while wearing masks and social distancing.

"It's really cold right now. Instrumentally we came inside around the beginning of November. My vocal colleagues and their kids have been braving the elements," said Andy Forster, music teacher and president-elect of the Maine Music Educators Association.

Barry and Forster are trying to get students singing safely indoors.

"We understand the parameters of the pandemic. We understand safety measures. We are not asking for anything that isn't safe. We're asking for current science to be used, studied, and implemented," said Barry.

"They've lost everything last March and haven't gotten much back," said Forster.

The state said singing carries a relatively higher risk of virus transmission because it can aerosolize or spread respiratory droplets to a distance of at least 13 feet.

Barry and Forster want the state to look at preliminary results of a study being conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations that found a well-fitted, three-layer surgical mask reduces aerosol emission.

"If it means using all these mitigation factors to allow us to be inside so that we can make some music together, I think that's a great thing," said Forster.

The DOE released the following statement:

"We recognize that all educators are redesigning education as we once knew it, and lessons, labs, performances are happening in all new ways to both engage and protect our students in the midst of a global pandemic. To that end, DOE content specialists have been offering ongoing professional development, technical assistance and facilitation in how to pivot our professions in innovative ways. DOE Visual and Performing Arts Specialist Jason Anderson has been a leader in this work for VPA, including music, and in his ongoing advocacy for flexibilities, where the science permits.

"The latest guidance, found here, was updated by the medical and community health experts who have successfully advised school leaders such that in Maine we continue to see reduced transmission of the virus in schools compared to the general population," the statement continues. "This was after their review of additional studies and information, including the study provided by the Maine Music Educators Association. As always, the guidelines will continue to evolve as experts learn more, but the experts would be cautious in changing safety protocols based on the results of a single study.

"Maine has long been defined by and celebrated for our creative spirit, and now more than ever, this will be needed as our educators creatively redesign learning in schools and encourage the well-rounded learning and social-emotional well-being that comes from engagement with the arts."