As parents start their back-to-school shopping on the Seacoast, many of them are wondering if they need to get new masks for their children.

District officials and school board members across the region are digesting new federal guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills said they will follow the latest recommendations from officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.

State officials in New Hampshire are not issuing specific COVID-19 guidelines for the return to classes, instead relying on "universal best practices" and allowing local leaders to make decisions that best fit their community.

People who have students who attend school in Dover can view the preliminary plan district officials have drafted. Members of the school board will be reviewing it during their August 9 meeting.

Students under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated yet, so district officials will maintain a mask mandate, as well as social distancing protocols in grades Pre-K to 8.

They could eliminate the six-foot social distancing rule in the cafeteria and lift the mask mandate at the high school since all of the students and staff members have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, according to the plan.

That is subject to change, according to School Board Chair Amanda Russell.

"We will use the most up-to-date data available to help guide us in any decision making. Depending on the number of active cases and transmission rates, decisions may change before school starts or throughout the school year. Our goal is to have students in school five days a week and to do so in a way that protects our students and our staff," Russell said via email.

Superintendent William Harbron said they will be looking deeper into this later on in the week. He is currently on vacation.

"There will be meetings later this week when I return to begin the process of finalizing protocols," Harbron said via email.

The first day of school for students in Dover is Sept. 1, according to their website.

Rochester parents can view the guidance for their schools here. It is subject to change before the start of the academic year and was based on COVID-19 data as of May 27.

If the plan is carried out as is, masks will be optional in Rochester but there will be hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette in place. Disposable surface wipes will be available in every classroom, computer lab, multipurpose room, common area and other identified areas with high traffic.

There will also be a daily self-screener for students, staff and visitors.

Superintendent Kyle Repucci was not immediately available for comment on Monday.

People can leave feedback and comment on Rochester's reopening plan here.

Students at Oyster River School District come from Durham, Madbury and Lee. Superintendent Jim Morse was not available on Monday, but Durham's town administrator was.

Todd Selig said the school board will be taking up issues related to returning back to school on Wednesday evening. Those meetings are broadcast on Channel 95 and live-streamed.

Selig said he knows that the CDC has issued new guidance.

"I have no opinion to offer at this point," Selig said.

Selig said there have been one to four daily active cases in town since the June timeframe.

Children under the age of 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, but Selig encourages people who are eligible to get their shots.

"We continue to urge residents to take advantage of the COVID vaccine. That's the best deterrent against the virus," Selig said.

In Portsmouth, a parent forum is planned at the high school for Aug. 9 at 6:30 p.m.

School officials posted they will have five full days of in-person learning, they will restore extracurricular activities and they will be monitoring guidance from NH Department of Health and Human Services.

CDC officials have recommendations for helping young children and parents transition back to school. You can find them by clicking here.

Contact Managing News Editor Kimberley Haas at Kimberley.Haas@townsquaremedia.com.

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