Parents will get to decide if their children attending Diocese of Manchester Catholic schools mask up during the upcoming academic year.

Superintendent David A. Thibault said that the Diocese listened to parents who wanted a full "return to normalcy" with in-person learning during the current scholastic year and is again heeding their wishes for the 2021-22 academic year.

"We believe that our Catholic schools are partners with parents in the education and formation of their children. Parents throughout our system of Catholic schools will have the flexibility and freedom to make their own decisions on whether or not they want their child to wear a mask at school, and the same is true for our teachers and staff," Thibault said in a statement.

Parents have pushed back against mandatory masking policies, claiming they violate state law prohibiting face-down restraint that prevents children from breathing freely.

Officials at the Attorney General's Office in New Hampshire have said that masks are not a violation and parents are misinterpreting the law.

Timberlane school district parents asked the school board to end the policy and a meeting was moved online after a number of parents came to an in-person meeting to comment.

Two school districts, SAU 41, Hollis-Brookline, and SAU 25, Bedford, have been sued over continued mask-wearing by attorney Robert Fojo.

The lawsuit seeks an emergency order keeping the districts from enforcing their mask policies now and during the 2021-22 school year.

COVID-19 vaccines are available for children age 12 and older. However, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have recommended mask-wearing continue.

Pfizer, in partnership with the German drug maker BioNTech, has started clinical trials testing its COVID-19 vaccine on healthy children between the ages of six months and 11 years old.

It's not known yet if the vaccine would be available by the start of the new school year.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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