UNION — The Regional School Unit 40 Board of Directors voted to temporarily suspend a COVID-19 policy at their Thursday, Jan. 20 meeting and resubmit it to the policy committee for further review.

The policy on vaccination, testing and face covering had been approved at the board’s Thursday, Jan. 6 meeting in preparation to comply with OSHA’s emergency testing standard. The policy stated all employees must provide proof of vaccination status, and unvaccinated employees must submit weekly testing and wear masks.

The supreme court then ruled against OSHA’s emergency testing standard.

Superintendent Steve Nolan originally suggested the board rescind the policy.

“I am concerned about the possibility of losing employees,” Nolan said. District staff who are not vaccinated may seek employment elsewhere if the district were to keep this policy in place, he explained.

Nolan also said he was concerned about hurting staff morale with a controversial policy that is not necessary. Transmission rates of the virus are low in the schools, vaccinations are widely available, universal masking is in place in the district and all staff and students may participate in pooled testing.

Discussion about the legal meaning of rescinding a policy led to a change in the motion, however.

Board Member Guy Bourrie, a representative from Washington, said rescinding a policy meant it could not come before the board again. “Once you rescind it; it’s dead,” Bourrie said.

Nolan and Board Chair Danny Jackson determined the motion could not be reconsidered either. Legally, a motion can only be reconsidered on the same day it is made.

Board Member Sandy O’Farrell, a representative from Waldoboro, then made a motion to temporarily suspend the policy and resubmit it to the policy committee for further review.

Brooke Simmons, a representative from Friendship, explained this would allow Nolan and Jackson time to consult with legal council about the matter. “Otherwise we’re going to sit around here all night and interpret terms,” Simmons said.

The motion passed with a weighted total of 629 to 274. RSU 40 board members each have a weighted vote depending on the population of the town they represent.

The next policy committee meeting is 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3 at the central office in Union.

In other business, Business Manager Karen Pike told the board Medomak Valley Middle School would be going remote on Friday, Jan. 21.

Pike said this temporary measure was to deal with a custodial staffing shortage.

The middle school and an elementary school had only one custodian due to COVID-19 absences, Pike said. One custodian was not enough to keep both schools clean and sanitized.

To deal with this, Pike said the district deployed the two custodians to the elementary school and set the middle school for one day of remote learning.

She said this decision was made because middle school students are old enough to be home alone, and are better able to learn remotely than elementary students.

Pike said the district anticipated reopening the middle school for in person instruction again Monday, Jan. 24.

The next school board meeting is 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3.