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Caribou schools no longer requiring outdoor masks, face coverings

CARIBOU, Maine — RSU 39 recently announced that they would no longer require masks or face coverings during recess or outdoor classes and events as of May 20.

The decision came shortly after the Maine Department of Education, in alignment with the Maine CDC, determined that masks would no longer be required for outdoor activities.

RSU 39 Superintendent Tim Doak said the students and staff seem to be enjoying the new policy, as well as the chance to go outside in the warmer weather and breathe in fresh air.

As it stands, masks and social distancing are still required while in the building and on the bus, except when eating or drinking. 

And with two new playgrounds being built at the new Caribou Community School, Doak said the decision came at a good time.

“It should be complete in about a week and a half,” he said. “They’ll still have a little time to play on it this year.”

He said he hasn’t heard much feedback from parents since the announcement, but that administrators often struggle to accommodate those with differing viewpoints while still following state rules.

“It’s kind of split down the middle,” he said. “I get some calls from parents who don’t want masks in the building at all, and others who want them all the time. It’s almost like a lose-lose situation. I think it’s important to realize that these rules are set down on us; it’s not us making these rules by ourselves.”

He said this sentiment seems common throughout the state, and that everyone is starting to feel fatigue from the pandemic. 

“I think parents are tired, and I think kids need a break from it,” he said. “It’s going to be an interesting start in fall for the next school year. I think you’ll see some changes. I’m not sure if the masks will be loosened up or if social distancing will be two or three feet apart instead of six feet.”

He said he and other administrators are hopeful that they are given enough time to adjust, and that any significant changes to COVID guidelines are not announced too late in the summer.

“I think many of us want to get back to a normal school day,” he said.

He said the school has diligently followed state guidelines and recommendations, and as a result they’ve had low case numbers, adding that students ended up missing more school because of construction delays with the Caribou Community School than as a result of the pandemic.

RSU 39 includes Caribou and Stockholm.

Doak’s career in education has spanned 31 years, with 23 of those as an administrator, but he said this year was among his most difficult.

“I think pandemic fatigue is setting in on everybody,” he said. “We need summer to come so we can step back, reflect, and enjoy some time outside.”

 

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