Keene’s two Catholic schools will allow parents to choose whether their children will wear masks in school next year, following a policy that the Diocese of Manchester announced Tuesday.

St. Joseph Regional School, a pre-K-through-8th-grade school, and the adjacent Our Lady of Mercy Academy, a high school wrapping up its inaugural year, will abide by the diocese’s “parental choice” mask policy, according to Chris Smith, the principal of both schools.

“We’ve been very fortunate this year, and in school everyday since late August and we have had minimal issues and have not had to close our school for any reason throughout the year,” Smith said in an email Tuesday. “We are also looking forward to getting back to as normal as possible next Fall.”

Students at both schools, which, combined, enroll approximately 210 students on their shared campus at the corner of Main and Davis streets, have worn face coverings throughout the current academic year. Students in preschool through 1st grade have worn plastic face shields, according to the schools’ reopening plan.

The Diocese of Manchester, which oversees 18 Catholic schools statewide, announced the parental choice policy for the coming school year in a news release Tuesday.

David A. Thibault, superintendent of schools for the diocese, said it is still finalizing its full reopening guidelines for 2021-22, but schools intend to return to as close to pre-pandemic operations as possible.

“We will continue to work with leaders in our Catholic schools to ensure the health of our faculty and staff, students, their families, and the community at large,” Thibault said in the release. “This includes continuing our COVID mitigation efforts including air purifiers in classrooms, cohorting students, and more. As we prepare for the next academic year, we remain committed to operating safely and responsibly, with a high level of flexibility should unforeseen circumstances arise.”

Alison Mueller, director of marketing, enrollment and development for New Hampshire’s Catholic schools, added that all staff members will also be able to choose whether to wear a mask next year.

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