When children return to the classroom at Maple Street Magnet School in Rochester on Monday masks will be optional.

Superintendent Kyle Repucci said on Tuesday morning that the K-5 school - which was the first to reopen in 2020 with masks - will have children returning to the classrooms on Aug. 9.

There are approximately 115 children at the school.

Repucci said superintendents and child care service providers will be on a call with State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan on Aug. 11 and the school board will meet on Aug. 12 to set the practices moving forward for all Rochester students.

The rest of Rochester's schools will open on Sept. 1, Repucci said.

Repucci asks that as the academic year begins, members of the community remain flexible because there might be times when masks are required.

A draft plan of the guidance can be viewed here. The board made masks optional through a motion on July 8.

If the plan is carried out as is, there will be hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette in place. Disposable surface wipes will be available in every classroom, computer lab, multipurpose room, common area and other identified areas with high traffic.

There will also be a daily self-screener for students, staff and visitors.

People can leave feedback and comment on Rochester's reopening plan here.

The first day of the 2020 school year in Rochester. (Photo by Kimberley Haas)
The first day of the 2020 school year in Rochester. (Photo by Kimberley Haas)

What is happening in other Seacoast communities?

People who have students who attend school in Dover can view the preliminary plan district officials have drafted. Members of the school board will be reviewing it during their August 9 meeting.

Students under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated yet, so district officials will maintain a mask mandate, as well as social distancing protocols in grades Pre-K to 8.

They could eliminate the six-foot social distancing rule in the cafeteria and lift the mask mandate at the high school since all of the students and staff members have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, according to the plan.

That is subject to change, according to School Board Chair Amanda Russell.

"We will use the most up-to-date data available to help guide us in any decision making. Depending on the number of active cases and transmission rates, decisions may change before school starts or throughout the school year. Our goal is to have students in school five days a week and to do so in a way that protects our students and our staff," Russell said via email.

Superintendent William Harbron said they will be looking deeper into this later on in the week. He is on vacation.

"There will be meetings later this week when I return to begin the process of finalizing protocols," Harbron said via email.

The first day of school for students in Dover is Sept. 1, according to their website.

Students at Oyster River School District come from Durham, Madbury and Lee. Superintendent Jim Morse was not available on Monday, but Durham's town administrator was.

Todd Selig said the school board will be taking up issues related to returning back to school on Wednesday evening. Those meetings are broadcast on Channel 95 and live-streamed.

Selig said he knows that the CDC has issued new guidance.

"I have no opinion to offer at this point," Selig said.

Selig said there have been one to four daily active cases in town since the June timeframe.

Children under the age of 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, but Selig encourages people who are eligible to get their shots.

"We continue to urge residents to take advantage of the COVID vaccine. That's the best deterrent against the virus," Selig said.

In Portsmouth, a parent forum is planned at the high school for Aug. 9 at 6:30 p.m.

School officials posted they will have five full days of in-person learning, they will restore extracurricular activities and they will be monitoring guidance from NH Department of Health and Human Services.

What do state and federal leaders say about this?

District officials and school board members across the region are digesting new federal guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

State officials in New Hampshire are not issuing specific COVID-19 guidelines for the return to classes, instead relying on "universal best practices" and allowing local leaders to make decisions that best fit their community.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills said they will follow the latest recommendations from officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.

Contact Managing News Editor Kimberley Haas at Kimberley.Haas@townsquaremedia.com.

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