CONWAY — With school scheduled to begin next Thursday, Sept. 2, masks will be required for all who enter school district buildings. Signs indicating masks be worn were posted on the five schools in the Conway School District on Thursday.
“The signs say to enter the building you must wear a mask,” Superintendent Kevin Richard said by phone Thursday.
The Conway School Board, whose next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13, will also be requiring citizens to wear masks in order to attend. Chairman Joe Lentini reached out to his colleagues prior to last Monday’s board meeting asking members and school administrators to wear masks since the district is currently at an elevated level of COVID-19 cases.
All donned masks except for board member Randy Davison.
“I’m vaccinated,” said Davison, who got the Moderna vaccine along with SAU 9 staff in March and April. “Are you going to require us to wear masks tonight?’
“I had asked the board and administrators since schools are starting to consider it,” Lentini replied. “It doesn’t matter you are vaccinated or not, Randy. The number of cases is soaring.”
Davison said since it was an optional request, he would go mask-free.
“I’ll have to be wearing a mask soon enough,” he said.
Davison, who is a teacher in neighboring MSAD 72 in Fryeburg, Maine, said students and staff will be required to wear masks on the first day of classes there on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Richard and Lentini, Assistant Superintendent Kadie Wilson and board members Michelle Capozzoli, Ryan Wallace and Jessica Whitelaw all wore masks at the meeting, along with Kennett High Principal Kevin Carpenter, Conway Elementary Principal Jason Robert, Pine Tree Principal Aimee Frechette, John H. Fuller Elementary Principal Danielle Nutting and Kennett Middle School Principal Rick Biche.
Valley Vision videographer Rob Weinstein and a Sun reporter also wore masks.
Jim LeFebvre, chair of the Conway Municipal Budget Committee, and audience members Wendy Richardson of Conway along with Kevin Clifford, Susan Hirtle, Rebecca Miller and Nicole Nordlund, all of Madison, and Robert Chase of Bartlett chose not to wear masks.
“I put out to the board that the CDC is recommending masking indoors,” Lentini said in an interview Tuesday while he was fully masked up and in hospital safety clothing administering COVID-19 tests at Memorial Hospital in North Conway.
“Hopefully, if people are asked to mask we’ll get everyone to comply.”
In the newly adopted SAU 9 Re-Entry Plan, approved by the Conway Board on Aug. 12, the plan uses a color chart for operating conditions. Green is “minimal indicators of concern. Limited or no restrictions on school operations.” Yellow is ”some indicators trend at elevated levels moving school operations to follow modified protocols and procedures.” Red is “multiple indicators trend at elevated levels moving school operations to strict protocols and procedures.”
In the green operating conditions, masks will be optional. Under yellow, masking will be based on current indicators and state and federal guidelines. If a school reaches red, masks will be required at all times.
Richard said based on the current COVID transmission rate, Conway is at a “high yellow” level.
According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, as of Wednesday, there were 10 active cases in Conway and have been 706 total cases.
Elsewhere in SAU 9, Bartlett currently has 1-4 active cases with 150 total; Albany has no active cases with 39 total; Eaton has zero current cases and six total; and Jackson has zero at the moment and 36 total.
In SAU 13, Freedom has 1-4 active cases with 68 total; has 1-4 active cases with 125 total; and Tamworth has 1-4 active cases and a total of 131.
Wolfeboro is the current case leader with 20 active positive tests and had had 344 since the pandemic began in March of 2020.
In the Governor Wentworth School District’s Re-Opening Plan, students attending Kingswood Regional High School and Kingwood Regional Middle School will start the year wearing masks.
“When the level of transmission is substantial or high in Carroll County students and staff will be expected to wear a mask indoors,” the re-entry plan states.
According to WMUR (Channel 9) on Wednesday, a number of schools are preparing for opening day with different mask plans.
“Manchester schools start in one week with a color-coded system. Blue and green means minimal to moderate transmission, masks are worn while moving about the schools and optional while seated in the classroom,” the WMUR website states. “Yellow, or substantial spread, lead to mask required at all times and red, a state of emergency, sends students home for remote learning.
“Salem schools also return next week with a mask requirement, regardless of vaccination status when separation of 3 feet or more cannot be maintained and acrylic shields are not available.
“Bedford's first day of school (was) Thursday, and students and staff (returned) with a recommendation that unvaccinated individuals wear masks indoors but not a requirement. Bedford will use a plan called targeted masking," WMUR said.