WATERVILLE — Anti-mask mandate activist Nick Blanchard didn’t get the answers he wanted Monday when he asked the Waterville Board of Education whether launching a petition effort or taking a poll of residents would get schools to remove the mask-wearing rule.

wtv school board

Nick Blanchard, founder of the group, “Patriots with Attitude,” speaks Monday night at a Waterville Board of Education meeting at Waterville Senior High School. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

“What’s it going to take?” he said.

Board Chairperson Joan Phillips-Sandy said the matter is going to be decided by the recommendation of the U.S. Centers For Disease Control & Prevention and the Department of Education.

“Period. The end,” Phillips-Sandy said. “If that changes, we can talk again. We are not deciding this issue based on polls.”

Blanchard, who founded the group Patriots with Attitude, rebuffed her.

“So, the citizens of Waterville can’t decide?” he said. “The government’s going to decide what our kids do, is what you’re saying?”

About 50 people, including parents, educators and board members, turned out for the meeting, held in the media center at Waterville Senior High School. The schools require mask-wearing, based on CDC and Department of Education guidelines.

Some parents stood to thank Superintendent Eric Haley and the board for keeping staff, students and educators safe by following those guidelines.

Carrie LeVan said more than 44 parents signed a letter to the schools saying masking and other measures significantly reduce transmission of diseases, including COVID-19.

“We would like to express our gratitude tonight for your continued diligence and hard work,” LeVan said, reading the letter aloud.

Blanchard, 32, a resident of Ward 2, attended last week’s City Council meeting at Mayor Jay Coelho’s invitation after Blanchard earlier said the group planned to protest outside the homes of people who sit on the board of directors for school districts in the region. Blanchard said his intention was not to be violent but to hold board members accountable for imposing a mask mandate and for other decisions they make.

Coelho said he had no issue with Blanchard protesting but disagrees with his approach. In Waterville, people discuss issues in a civil way and don’t resort to going to elected officials’ homes to protest, he said. Coelho told Blanchard he would accompany him to a Waterville Board of Education meeting, where he was sure Blanchard would be heard. He told Blanchard he might not like what the board members say, but he would be allowed to speak.

Coelho spoke before Blanchard did Monday, saying Blanchard apparently was discounted by other school boards he had attended.

“I hope that everybody can have this discussion in a calm, rational way, even if the answers you give aren’t the answers that they want,” Coelho told the members of the Waterville board.

Blanchard, who works at a local equipment rental business, posted a recent video on YouTube arguing that attending school board meetings is fruitless and it is time to escalate tactics to try to make school boards accountable for their decisions. Blanchard said recently that he has a young child not yet in school. He said he and others recently attended school board meetings in Skowhegan and Oakland and felt their concerns were disregarded.

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