NORTH ANSON — The Regional School Unit 74 board of directors has decided the district’s students and staff members must wear protective masks indoors for the remainder of the semester, which ends in early January.

The board adopted the measure at its meeting Wednesday.

RSU 74 serves the Somerset County communities of Anson, Embden, New Portland, North Anson and Solon.

At the request of the board, district administrators must meet with staff members before Thanksgiving to review options for remote learning in anticipation of parents who remove their children from school in objection to the mask mandate.

A special board meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 15 to discuss remote learning options with the public.

Prior to Wednesday’s decision, the district was operating under a color-coded system in which masking was only implemented if one of the district’s schools had more than one positive case of COVID-19.


The preparation for remote learning came at the request of board member Bobbi Sue Harrington, who said she was opposed to adopting a mask policy without having “other learning alternatives for kids who don’t want to wear a mask.”

Superintendent Mike Tracy reminded the board it had directed him in August to move forward with a school reopening plan that did not include remote or synchronous learning options, and that he must meet with teachers to discuss whether this expanded option falls within the terms of staff contracts.

Tracy said he has advocated for months to have more students at school, saying the best way to improve academics is “to let me have the kids in school.”

“I started the school year advocating for parent choice,” Tracy said, “but what I’ve seen as a result of my action and leading is that we are a district that is putting more kids out of school than districts around us.”

RSU 74 is also “closing more schools than districts around us,” he said. “Quite simply for me, I know the mask is a burden, I understand. The fact is we’re going to have more kids in school.”

Tracy said teachers have been pleading with him to keep schools open and to have in-person instruction, but schools have had to close or shift to remote learning because of COVID-19 cases and exposure to those who had tested positive.


The mask mandate passed 8-6, with one board member absent, and came after an hour of comments from the public.

The Maine Department of Education says schools requiring masks are able to have more students in attendance for a number of reasons, including that social distancing can be narrowed. The department also says if a school requires masks, not all students in a class have to quarantine after a confirmed COVID-19 case in that classroom.

The mask requirement is scheduled to remain in place until Jan. 5, and a special meeting of the RSU 74 board of directors is set to begin at 6 p.m. on Nov. 17.

In nearby Maine School Administrative District 59, based in Madison, officials decided to adopt a mask mandate weeks after the 2021-22 academic year began, after experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases that caused the district to shift to remote learning for a week.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.