Jun. 1—Catholic schools in New Hampshire will implement a "parent choice" mask policy for the 2021-2022 academic year, the Diocese of Manchester announced Tuesday.
Catholic schools in the state have offered in-person learning since August 2020.
"We led the way in our decision to return to the classroom, and our students are thriving," said David A. Thibault, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Manchester. "With a year of in-person learning under our belt and the positive trends in our state's COVID statistics, the time is right."
In New Hampshire, enrollment in Catholic schools has risen 2.3% — an increase of 119 students — for the 2020-2021 school year from the previous school year. New Hampshire public schools have reported enrollment declines of 5% since the 2019-2020 academic year, dropping from 171,940 in 2019-2020 to 163,364 in 2020-2021.
"Last year, nearly five hundred new students enrolled in our diocesan Catholic schools, and the overwhelming majority have decided to stay next year," said Alison Mueller, Director of Marketing, Enrollment, and Development for Catholic schools. "We listened to parents' desire for a return to normalcy with in-person learning, and now we're listening again. We believe that our Catholic schools are partners with parents in the education and formation of their children. Parents throughout our system of Catholic schools will have the flexibility and freedom to make their own decisions on whether or not they want their child to wear a mask at school, and the same is true for our teachers and staff."
Thibeault said COVID-19 mitigation efforts including air purifiers in the classroom will remain moving forward.
"As we prepare for the next academic year, we remain committed to operating safely and responsibly, with a high level of flexibility should unforeseen circumstances arise," Thibeault said. "We will continue to work with leaders in our Catholic schools to ensure the health of our faculty and staff, students, their families, and the community at large. Our guidelines are still being finalized but we intend to return as close to pre-pandemic operations as possible."