If New Hampshire schools return to in-person classes in the fall, masks will not be mandated despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that everyone wear a mask around other people in public.
Instead, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is giving school districts and teachers the option to design models tailored to their specific situations.
New Hampshire has released guidance on how schools should safely reopen in the fall. The guidance does not prescribe an overarching requirement needed for them to reopen, Sununu said on Tuesday, noting the wide disparities between rural, urban and suburban areas.
The governor said the goal was to keep things “flexible so they can open today,” but then to “remain dynamic as they go through the fall semester.”
“A safe return to school in September 2020 is the primary goal, with accommodations for individuals, students and educators, who due to underlying health concerns are not able to return to in person learning,” the guidance states.
Masks will not be mandated “in every aspect of the school,” the governor said, but will be encouraged when social distancing can’t be accomplished. Visitors — including parents dropping things off — will be mandated to wear masks.
Additional details included in the guidance are guidelines for how to set up classrooms — spacing desks between 3 and 6 feet apart — developing screening procedures for staff, students and visitors, and giving teachers more development days to update their contingency plans for if/when anyone in the school system is diagnosed with coronavirus.
“We feel confident all students can come back in a safe, productive manner,” Sununu said.
The guidelines were developed by a task force put together earlier in the year that consisted of parents, teachers, administrators and students, and surveyed districts across the state, Sununu said.
New Hampshire has at least 6,068 coronavirus cases and 391 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.