Back to school

LANGDON — The Fall Mountain Regional School District will require students and employees to wear masks in school to begin the new academic year, Superintendent Lori Landry wrote Tuesday in a letter to families and staff.

The school board approved the district’s reopening plan, including the mask mandate, at a meeting Monday night, Landry wrote.

The N.H. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendations for school reopenings, issued earlier this month, call for universal masking in schools when COVID-19 transmission in the community is substantial. As of Tuesday, both Cheshire and Sullivan counties are experiencing substantial transmission, the highest of the state’s three tiers measuring community spread, according to the state health department.

Fall Mountain based its mask mandate on this guidance, Landry wrote, and the board will revisit the decision-making matrix for masks in 60 days.

The CDC — which calls for universal indoor masking in counties experiencing high transmission, the highest of four tiers from the federal agency — reports both counties are experiencing high transmission as of Tuesday. The federal health agency recommends universal masking in schools regardless of community transmission level.

As part of Fall Mountain’s reopening plan, the district — which covers Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Langdon and Walpole — will monitor COVID-19 levels in Cheshire and Sullivan counties to guide decisions on health and safety measures moving forward, Landry wrote. Along with masking in schools, the district will start the new year Sept. 1 following protocols including limiting contact between different groups of students, sanitizing surfaces in schools and on buses and encouraging people to stay home if sick.

“There is no one method of intervention that will stop the spread of COVID-19,” Landry wrote in her letter, which was posted on the district website. “We will continue to use a multi-layer of strategies to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within the schools.”

School mask mandates have been contentious nationwide, and throughout the Monadnock Region, though most local districts plan to begin the academic year with these requirements in place. Ultimately, Landry wrote that Fall Mountain’s plan aims to keep all students safely in school five days a week.

“As we continue to make difficult decisions regarding COVID-19 this school year, I hope that we also continue to come from a place of doing our best to keep our staff, students, families, and community members safe,” she wrote. “The importance of school and what happens during the school day has become so evident. Our schools are a safe, nurturing place where we try to meet each child’s academic, physical, nutritional, social, and emotional needs.”

Jack Rooney can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or jrooney@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @RooneyReports.