May 1, 2020

Governor Mills’ new “Stay Safer at Home” Order extends the previous orders, provides a path forward via the Governor’s Restarting Plan and addresses requirements for the use of cloth face coverings. 

The MEA recommends that all school employees who are performing in-person duties wear cloth face masks to continue to contribute positively to decreasing the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.  This recommendation is consistent with the Governor’s new “Stay Safer at Home” Order.  Cloth face coverings should be worn and maintained in accordance with the new “Stay Safer at Home” Order and per the CDC guidelines.

The new “Stay Safer at Home” Order makes clear that all prior Executive Orders and related guidance remain in effect.  This includes all employees who have been able to work from home to continue to do so.  And for those essential functions that require in-person work, in all instances, the DOE’s Priority Notice “Unified Guidance Regarding Executive Orders and School Personnel: All School Services and Employees are Essential” should continue to be followed, including:

“…physical presence in schools should be restricted to a bare minimum in order to provide essential functions – such as providing educational and nutritional services to students, payroll, certain cleaning and maintenance staff, certain administrative assistant staff where communications cannot occur remotely, IT staff to support remote learning functions, transportation staff – and only as long as social distancing and other CDC recommendations (including hand washing protocols) are being implemented…”

If a school district is not already providing cloth face masks for employees, local associations should request that all employees currently working on public school buses/vehicles and in school buildings be provided with cloth face coverings that are in compliance with CDC guidelines.  To the extent that school employees prefer to wear cloth face coverings that they have obtained for themselves, they should be allowed to do so.  Furthermore, since it is likely that the next school year will also require that employers and employees take steps to limit the spread of COVID-19, local associations should request that all employees who are working in school buildings during the next school year also be provided with cloth face coverings and that the school district take steps now to ensure that all employees will be provided with at least two (2) cloth face masks.  When requesting that cloth face masks be provided, local associations should reference the new “Stay Safer at Home” Order and Press Release, as well as any safe workplace provisions in the local collective bargaining agreement.  If you cannot access an appropriate cloth face covering, please let MEA know.

The Maine DOE has worked to obtain a limited quantity of face masks for schools, which are available upon request by superintendents from the local Emergency Management Agency.  Locals should request that superintendents pursue this as a potential option for obtaining cloth face masks.  If face masks are no longer available via the local EMA, other steps should be taken by the employer to obtain cloth face masks. 

Please connect with your UniServ Director for additional advice and to address any questions you may have.