CONCORD — Students won’t be required to wear masks in classrooms but should do so in crowded hallways where physical distancing can't be maintained, Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday in releasing back-to-school guidelines.

Sununu said the rules maximize flexibility so that local school districts can decide what works best for them.

“If you create mandates that are so tough to meet, you are setting yourself up for failure,” he said. “Let teachers do what they do best, manage the classroom, provide a great education, work with students.

“We all share a goal in getting our kids back to school safely and believe this guidance allows schools to open, but we know each school district will have a different path forward.”

Large schools in populous areas like Manchester face different challenges than small schools in rural areas like Croydon, the governor said.

“Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, this is a guide that values local control, and helps each school district make the best decision for their students and teachers.”

The guidelines include:

• Robust daily screening process for staff, students and visitors for symptoms of COVID-19 or risk factors for exposure prior to entering the educational facility.

• Recommendation for classroom arrangement to minimize close contact between students.

• Educators and staff who are working with students are encouraged to wear a face cloth covering when physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

• Masks are mandated for all outside visitors when visiting a school.

• Plans for how a school can provide in-person education as well as remote-learning options for those who choose not to return to school for health or safety reasons.

• District transportation plans must implement safety protocols that are realistic and not overly disruptive of the instructional models.

“This guidance provides concrete steps schools can take to re-open with built in layers of protection to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, while also allowing school systems the flexibility to establish a process that will help them meet the unique needs of their student populations and communities.” State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said.

“The novel coronavirus is still present in our state and our communities, and as with any re-opening during the pandemic, school officials have the difficult task of maximizing the benefits of students returning to school and minimizing or mitigating the risks of spreading COVID-19 in schools. We will continue to work with individual schools, school districts and the broader education community to support their efforts to reopen in a safe manner.”

Experts, parents, teachers, school leaders and community members provided input to the School Transition Reopening and Redesign Task Force in developing the guidelines.

Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said schools should be prepared to accommodate students and staff with underlying health risk and have a robust response plan in place if coronavirus is detected.

“Nothing can ever eliminate all risk, but we must balance that risk with the need to educate New Hampshire children,” he said.

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