Lawyers hired to object to Windham school mask option

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Aug. 31—WINDHAM — Students are welcome to wear masks as the new school year gets underway this week, but face coverings are not required by school officials.

At least 19 families, with a combined 35 students across the district, don't agree with the decision. They have banded together in hiring attorneys to address school leaders on their behalf.

An Aug. 30 letter sent to Superintendent Richard Langlois, Assistant Superintendent Kori Becht, as well as all five School Board members, accuses the district of failing to accommodate students at high-risk from COVD-19 by not requiring everyone to mask up.

The letter, signed by Attorneys Andru Volinsky and Natalie Laflamme, says the decision to do away with a mask mandate "flies in the face of all the available science, and, as you are aware, is against the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control."

The latest CDC guidance recommends universal indoor masking and at least 3 feet of physical distance regardless of vaccination status. The CDC pointed to the "highly contagious Delta variant" in its reasoning.

None of the families are named in the letter, but at least some of their children are said to have medical conditions that require individualized education plans or "504 plans," a state regulation that requires districts to provide free and appropriate education to students with disabilities.

"Our clients hope to resolve this matter without the need to go to court," the letter states. "They ask that the school district immediately reinstate a mask mandate so long as there is substantial transmission in Rockingham County."

School Board Chairwoman Shannon Ulery confirmed that district officials have received the letter.

"We are currently reviewing it with administration and legal counsel and will respond at an appropriate time," she said via email.

Students with significant medical conditions or life-threatening short-term conditions, including isolating to stop the spread of COVID-19, will have the ability to attend classes remotely. Each student's case needs to be presented to the appropriate school principal for permission.

School officials also say a partnership has been formed with ConvenientMD in town to screen students and staff. The confidential testing is optional.

The School Board has said that mask mandates are subject to change at their discretion.

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