NH Health and education departments call for an end to masks in schools

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire Departments of Health and Education are recommending that schools end face coverings and masks.

On Wednesday, the New Hampshire Division of Public Health updated its recommendations for the use of masks and face coverings. The new guidelines no longer recommend universal face mask use, indoors or outdoors, including specifically in school settings.

Frank Edelblut, the commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, said the decision meant schools would have to move away from mask requirements.

“I want to take this time to thank all New Hampshire schools for their hard work and for continuing to provide the best educational opportunities for young people in Granite State,” he said. “I understand this has been difficult. NHDOE will continue to work with and support schools as they change their policies to align with public health recommendations.”

The public health decision prompted the New Hampshire Department of Education to issue a technical advisory on Wednesday.

Similar to information released at the start of the pandemic, school districts have the authority to require students to wear face coverings, as part of their own health and safety policies, based on school rules. state education. However, the change in public health policy now made masks incompatible with previous state education rules used to allow districts to mandate face coverings.

The notice laid out the problem: A mask requirement can now violate a district’s obligation to maintain policies that “address[] the educational needs of each student,” Ed 306.04(a)(6), “[p]Romot[e] a school environment conducive to learning”, Ed 306.04(11), and that “[m]meets the special physical health needs of students.” Ed 306.04(a)(22).

Therefore, consistent with previous public health recommendations, schools should transition to adopt these new public health recommendations as quickly as possible, the department said.

A number of schools across the state no longer require masks or face coverings or are considering changing their policies.

In SAU 8, Concord School District, a subcommittee voted to recommend the school board move to a mask-optional policy on March 14. If positive cases in a school exceed 3% of the school population, the school exceeding the 3% threshold will revert to a mask mandate for 10 days, according to the proposal which was due to be considered on March 7.

Editor’s note: I was Director of Communications for the New Hampshire Department of Education between April 13, 2018 and April 16, 2019.

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