St. John Valley

Van Buren mandates masks, but worries more parents will pull kids from schools

VAN BUREN, Maine — The SAD 24 school board voted unanimously to mandate masks at an emergency meeting Thursday night. 

The board will revisit the issue at each of its monthly meetings to reevaluate the COVID-19 spread in the community and reconsider the mandate.

Unlike mandate debates on school boards across the state, Van Buren’s educators were less worried about masks themselves and more worried about how parents would respond to them being required. In mask mandate debates across the state, parents have threatened to pull kids from schools — Principal Karen Dubois said some people are following through. 

Roughly 10 students have not been to school since Monday, when a COVID-19 case emerged in the high school, and a 10-day mask mandate was put into place, Dubois said. 

“The writing is on the wall. I know we’re all going to be wearing masks, but we need to be prepared for parents to keep kids home,” Dubois said. “Just on Monday, you would not believe the amount of phone calls we had.”

Van Buren is not set up to do hybrid learning this year — students who are close contacts of a COVID-19 case either miss school while they quarantine or they are vaccinated and come to school with a mask. 

The board is hoping that constant reevaluation of the mask mandate will help reassure parents and their kids that they aren’t taking the decision lightly, and will remove the mandate as soon as possible. 

“Parents are going to be upset, they’re going to call, they’re going to threaten,” school board member Christina Dolan said. “But all we can do is try to prevent as much of a spread as we possibly can.” 

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