Hundreds of Maine parents demand students be allowed to return to classrooms full-time

“We have little scientific reason to continue a hybrid format” says the founder of Concerned Parents of RSU 22.
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 10:51 AM EST
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HAMPDEN, Maine (WABI/WMTW) - Hundreds of parents from RSU 22 in Hampden have signed a petition calling on the state to relax distancing guidelines for schools so that students across the state can return to the classroom full-time.

More than 1,000 people signed the petition launched by Concerned Parents of RSU 22, a group founded by Sarah Newell. That petition was delivered to Gov. Janet Mills, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah, and Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin Thursday morning.

Those behind the petition says the goal is not to have the state bend the rules, but to have them follow the science.

“It’s not working out well for these kids to be in school just two days a week,” said Anthony Liberatore, a parent of three students in RSU 22, which serves Hampden and three other towns.

“Now I think it’s safe for them to be back. I don’t think there’s a scientific basis for keeping them out of school or keeping them in a hybrid program at this point,” said Sarah Newell, co-founder of Concerned Parents of RSU 22.

Newell and Liberatore are two parents out of hundreds who are ready to see their kids head back to school, five days a week.

The group has released a petition calling for change.

“We’re just looking for the state to recognize that school districts that have followed what the CDC is saying, which is that air filtration systems and rapid testing, and vaccinations, schools that have those elements in place, can return to full-time instruction. If that means that some of the 3 foot or 6 foot distancing has to be modified in certain places only to the extent necessary, the state should be allowing school districts to do that,” Newell tells TV5.

“Some of the early responses from the Department of Education and the Governor’s office were, we’re leaving it up to the school districts to make their own plan. Well, that’s kind of passing the buck because we have a plan. We’ve presented it, and it hasn’t been accepted, said Liberatore. “There’s definitely some political jockeying going on. We need to put our kids first. We need to put the politics aside and follow the data.”

The Maine Department of Education released a statement saying its guidance for school districts largely comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Moving forward, Liberatore is hopeful now that teachers can get vaccinated. He believes that will give faculty more flexibility.

“We’re asking way too much of our faculty. They’ve already done way more than they ever should have had to,” said Liberatore. “I don’t fault the faculty. I don’t fault the admin for the situation. I think the state needs to reconcile its guidelines so we can get back to an easier classroom setting for the teachers and the students.”

WABI reached out to the superintendent of RSU 22 for comment and have yet to hear back.

The next RSU 22 school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 17. You can livestream it here.

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