My name is Sandra Howard. I serve as Music Department chair at Keene State College, I am the lead author on our department COVID-19 protocols, and a parent of a 2nd-grader at Westmoreland School.

I recently learned the governor has allowed the state’s mask mandate to expire. I am reaching out to strongly urge the City of Keene and SAU 29 to keep the mask mandate in place.

With the challenges of an increased population in schools with the five-day return, it is critical that we all continue to adhere to CDC guidelines and do what has worked so well to keep students and staff safe. A huge part of limiting community spread is mask-wearing. While I recognize there are some who don’t subscribe to the scientific evidence of mask-wearing, it is supported by the data.

I have grave concerns about any potential for this mandate to be changed in the immediate future, especially in the schools. SAU 29 would be liable for any action that reduces the safety of its school community members and their families.

If this does go into action in the schools, it could cause a major challenge for families who benefit from in-person schooling and could result in a massive exodus to remote learning, which I believe would cause an unsustainable increase in remote students for the district.

If the governor is looking to reduce mask-wearing in New Hampshire, SAU 29 needs to do better than that in protecting those who teach and learn within their academic buildings. All 10 New Hampshire counties continue to experience “substantial” transmission of COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

I am thankful for all the school district, school boards, principals and staff have done to adapt during the pandemic and ensure the safest possible learning environment for all.

Respectfully submitted,