Vaccinations, masks, and best practice safety precautions

TO:          School Board Members, School Board Chairs, Superintendents, and CTE Directors

FROM:  Steven W. Bailey, Executive Director
Student Safety: always a top priority for school boards and administrators alike. Whenever a difficult decision is considered, schools always consider what is in the best interest of students.
Why then are decisions so difficult for school boards regarding vaccinations, masks and other safety precautions related to issues preventing the spread of Covid-19, especially the most recent concern with the Delta variant that is rampantly spreading through unvaccinated populations and those not wearing masks?

Title 20-A of the Maine Statutes provides responsibility and authority to school boards for the safety and education of students within their care. Students are the prime constituent of school boards. Decisions are made with the best interests of students in mind.

Daily and weekly information continues to come from CDC as to the increased number of cases of Covid-19, the increased number of hospitalizations, and those infected people on ventilators. Percentages are in the high 90s for people who are not vaccinated.

School boards have been asked to support the strong recommendation from the US CDC for universal masking while indoors at school. Recognizing that these are extremely difficult decisions, school boards have listened intently to public comment, read emails, and taken multiple phone calls on the topic.

They have heard from their public and now is the time for action. As board members whose first responsibility is the safety of students, we need to listen to the recommendation of our health professionals and that recommendation is to mask in schools. We cannot afford to take a wait-and-see attitude when student safety is at risk.

It would be easier politically if this were mandated at the state level, but school boards are the local policy makers of their school districts. With schools opening now, we are running out of time.

Since “prevention is the best medicine,” I urge school boards to remain flexible with their school opening plan and use the tools available against this pandemic by encouraging vaccinations and requiring masks.

Please be ready to act before it is too late and keep your district a safe place for students to benefit from in-person instruction.