As school board meetings on the Seacoast draw out parents both for and against masking children in classrooms this fall, Gov. Chris Sununu and State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan said during a COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday that masks aren't the only mitigation strategy to prevent the spread of the virus in classrooms.

"If you think this is about masks or no masks, you're missing the boat," Sununu said.

Sununu said it is not that simple because many other variables come into play, including the school's size.

Chan encouraged people to put things into a local context and to remember there are many other layers of protection that can be utilized in a classroom.

The bottom line?

"Kids need to go back to school," Chan said.

Chan met with superintendents and child care providers on Wednesday to address their concerns.

Here's the latest update on where some school districts on the Seacoast are with their re-entry plans:

Stephanie Seacord is the public information officer in Portsmouth. She said on Thursday that at the school board's meeting on Tuesday half of the parents who showed up to speak were in support of mandatory masking while the other half were against it.

Board members decided that their mask policy for students would be based on the level of community transmission in Rockingham County.

If there is substantial transmission, all students in grades K-12 will be required to wear masks indoors.

If there is moderate transmission, only students in grades K-8 will be required to wear masks. Children under the age of 12 still cannot be vaccinated.

If there is minimal transmission, masks will be recommended but not required for K-8 students.

At the Oyster River Cooperative School District in Durham, the district will be requiring the wearing of masks within each of the school facilities by faculty, staff, students and visitors.

In Dover, members of the school board voted on their plan during a meeting on Monday night. High school students will not be required to wear masks, but it will be highly recommended that they do so, regardless of vaccination status.

Elementary and middle school students will be required to wear masks.

School Board Chair Amanda Russell said changes to their plans can be made at any meeting, and that may be required depending on what the numbers say at any particular point in time.

Maple Street Magnet School in Rochester was the first public elementary school in the state to go back to school and they had a face mask optional policy when classes began on Aug. 9.

There are approximately 115 children at the school.

Superintendant Kyle Repucci said the school board was planning to set the practices for all Rochester students on Thursday night.

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

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