Via WMTW. Published March 29, 2021
AUGUSTA, Maine — A group of more than 50 Maine lawmakers is calling on the state to ease restrictions to allow more schools to reopen full time.
The bipartisan letter, signed by 52 Republican and Democratic lawmakers, was sent to the Maine Department of Education and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The letter calls on the agencies to rescind the 3-feet physical distancing requirement for students and allow districts to develop their own plans.
The lawmakers said the 3-feet requirement is preventing many schools from reopening more fully.
The lawmakers also said the vaccination of teachers should allow districts to have more flexibility.
“With more teachers being vaccinated, this is now the moment we have to act so that kids are not being disadvantaged by their school buildings and capacity issues,” Rep. Nathan Carlow said.
Carlow, who also serves on the school board for Maine School Administrative District 6, said students would still need to wear masks and follow other guidance.
The letter also argued that numerous studies from multiple states similar to Maine in population and density have “suggested consequences of reopening schools have been exaggerated.”
The Maine Department of Education issued a statement on the letter Monday afternoon saying the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidance for schools, which further aligned it to what Maine has been doing since the beginning of the school year.
“Given that Maine’s school guidance is aligned with Federal guidance, we urge legislators to direct their concerns to the U.S. CDC for its public health experts to consider as they continue to take into account the latest science on keeping school communities safe,” the statement said.
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah touched on guidance for schools in an interview Monday morning with Newsradio WGAN.
Shah said he supports kids being in school on a consistent basis but noted that he is keeping an eye on ongoing studies in Wisconsin and Europe that are examining 3-feet distancing.
“Part of it is vaccination for teachers and staff. Not so much the kids, not the kids in my mind, but of the teachers and staff. But also having a finer sense of the distancing issue. Once we have a better sense of what we are trading off from 3 feet to normal, that will really help make a more informed decision,” Shah said.