LONDONDERRY — After many people spoke out in opposition to the School District's continuing efforts to keep students and staff masked, recently updated guidelines will make it an optional choice for families.
The district has received a lot of community support — but also backlash — for its mask policy up until now. Some people believe keeping face coverings on children is a hindrance, while others support the safety effort to keep staff and students healthy.
Many in the community have come out to School Board meetings in recent weeks to voice concerns about the effects masks have on children's learning, social time, and daily routines in the classroom.
That included Lindsey Haarlander, who spoke out June 22, saying her child, who attends school at Moose Hill School, needs speech therapy. The mask complicates that process, she said.
"When you are thinking about next year, you have to make this an option for kids like my daughter," she said. "It should be our choice."
Others spoke out in support of a group on social media, "Unmask our Kids," saying children were not performing to their optimal level in the classroom due to the restrictions of wearing masks.
School Board member Bob Slater also voiced support for making masks optional, drawing thanks from fellow supporters for his work to help spread their message.
"I was elected by people to be a voice," Slater said at the June 22 meeting. "I have to speak for the people."
Superintendent Scott Laliberte said health experts are advising schools to make masks optional. And Londonderry, like all school districts, had to present its reopening plan to the state last week.
"That was the expert advice I was waiting for," Laliberte said, adding that the town will continue to monitor all state, local and national guidance on COVID-19 and make any adjustments needed.
The superintendent added that it's the goal to make school opening in the fall as normal as possible.
"Our goal for the fall is a full reopening in person," Laliberte said
Some of the district's practices over the past year will remain in place, such as contact tracing and social distancing.
"The current plan, they will still need (to have little pieces) in place," Laliberte said.
He said the district will be working on the reopening plan all summer and will continue to monitor the situation.
"This is a very difficult spot," Laliberte said. "And we tried to balance public health with what our community expects of us. We are looking forward with every fiber in our being to normal school. We want students back in our traditional form."