The Brunswick School Board lifted its mask mandate for pre-K students last week, a change of course after opting not to withdraw it at its March 9 meeting.
After much discussion, council members voted unanimously to eliminate the masking requirement for pre-K students effective March 28. The move aligned the district with current guidelines from the state, which on March 2 recommended that districts lift all mask mandates for students in kindergarten through high school.
“I think two weeks ago it was kind of stepping into new territory, really not knowing where things were going,” said Dr. Alyssa Goodwin, who helped guide medical decisions for the district. school throughout the pandemic. “We still don’t know where things are going, but at least in the elementary grades we don’t see any drastic change in the number (of cases).”
Neighboring districts were blacked out for weeks. On March 9, a split Brunswick school board decided to keep masks mandatory for the district’s youngest students because Goodwin was unavailable to discuss the safety of children under age 5, who are currently not eligible. to vaccination against COVID-19.
At the March 23 meeting, Goodwin recommended adopting the state guidelines, noting that low levels of community transmission, high vaccination rates and a strong group testing system within the district have all contributed to protect young students.
Masking in schools has been a controversial issue throughout the pandemic, and there is still little information on the impact of face coverings on children’s educational development, according to Julie DellaMattera, associate professor of development and early childhood education at the University of Maine.
Many teachers reported that their young students were falling behind pre-pandemic developmental benchmarks, DellaMattera said. Still, she added that while masks could possibly negatively affect a student’s ability to develop language skills, there’s reason to think face coverings aren’t the problem.
“Here’s the thing: kids with low vision all learn to talk and understand their emotions,” DellaMattera said. “There are countries where people wear burkas and turbans and things that cover their faces, and all of these kids are doing well. It’s hard to say whether the masking is the problem or the fact that we have had children sitting at desks instead of being able to play together.
Whether or not face coverings are responsible for developmental delays, DellaMattera advised parents not to worry about their children’s long-term prospects.
“Kids are really resilient and they bounce back,” she said. “Personally, I think things are going to be fine.”
For Brunswick families concerned about the lifting of the mandate, Mid Coast Hospital Chief Medical Officer Chris Bowe offered a series of advice: Don’t hesitate to continue to mask up, wash your hands and wash your hands and register for vaccinations and boosters as soon as possible.
“We continue to know that the best way to manage this is through vaccination,” he said. “So we encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.”
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