Even the most COVID-cautious Maine parents start to relax as 1st day of school approaches

Andy Hurtt’s four sons are more excited than usual for the first day of school because they’re finally expecting school to feel more like it did before the pandemic, without the masking other COVID-19 protocols that came to define school over the past two years.

Hurtt, who lives in Brewer, said he and his children continued to wear masks for a little while after schools dropped the requirement, but eventually stopped. Now, they’ll wear them indoors when asked, but not most of the time.

“We weren’t worried about it in smaller learning groups, but if they did larger group things, we’d send them to school in masks,” Hurtt said Wednesday as his kids played at Bangor’s Fairmount Park. “Nobody likes wearing masks, but they never complained.”

Last year at this time, school boards were in the midst of sometimes contentious debates over whether to require masks. Those same battles aren’t happening this year, and doctors and health officials aren’t expecting schools to impose mask requirements. Instead, health professionals are now focused more on ensuring that children get vaccinated against COVID-19 and that parents keep their children home from school when they’re sick.

Parents recognize that COVID-19 is still present, but even the most cautious families are relaxing their precautions as their children prepare for a more normal first day of school.

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