Masks no longer required in Concord municipal buildings, while students can only go maskless outside

  • Joseph Holman of Manchester watches the path of his drive on the 12th tee at Beaver Meadow Golf Course on Tuesday morning, June 8, 2021.Face coverings are no longer be required to enter the club house as of June 2, 2021 and the cours will be continuing with online and phone reservations of tee times. Greens fees can be paid for online and in person, according to the city manager’s office. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Joseph Holman of Manchester watches his second shot at the 10th hole at Beaver Meadow Golf Course on Tuesday morning, June 8, 2021. Face coverings are no longer be required to enter the club house as of June 2, 2021 and the cours will be continuing with online and phone reservations of tee times. Greens fees can be paid for online and in person, according to the city manager’s office. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Joseph Holman of Manchester gets ready to tee off at Beaver Meadow Golf Course on Tuesday morning. Face coverings are no longer be required to enter the club house as of June 2, and the course will be continuing with online and phone reservations of tee times. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Joseph Holman of Manchester watches the path of his drive on the 12th tee at Beaver Meadow Golf Course on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/8/2021 4:16:20 PM

With just two weeks left until the end of the school year, masks will no longer be required during outdoor activities at Concord public schools, the School Board decided Monday.

The city’s overall mask ordinance expired June 1, leaving the decision to require a mask up to businesses and individuals. City officials have already lifted restrictions in public buildings by announcing that masks no longer need to be worn inside or outside at Beaver Meadow Golf Course, Everett Arena or even City Hall.    

School board members weren’t quite ready to allow students to go maskless inside classrooms and hallways, even though interim Superintendent Kathleen Murphy cited masks combined with the stifling heat as a reason to end the day early on Monday and Tuesday.  

The board voted 6-2 to make masks optional while outdoors starting Wednesday, following a recommendation by Murphy, who said the district has received “a lot of requests” for students to be allowed to remove masks during recess.

“We’ve been doing athletics and the students have been out there without masks, the rates in the city for the COVID virus are very low,” Murphy said. “We know that the city has dropped their mask requirements, and so it just made sense that when the kids were out there playing, they could do that without their mask on.”

The new rule allows students and their parents to decide for themselves whether or not the student will wear a mask while outdoors, either at recess or in outdoor classes held under tents. Inside the school buildings and on school buses, masks are still required for everyone. 

By contrast, in Manchester, the largest city in the state, masks are now optional inside school classrooms. Masks for students and staff are only for moving around in a building.

Concord school board members Barb Higgins, David Parker, Jim Richards, Danielle Smith, Pamela Walsh and Jonathan Weinberg voted in favor of the measure, which Murphy said has the approval of Dr. James Noble, a local infectious disease expert whom the school district has consulted about COVID-19 safety this year.

“Given the data that we have, both in our school district as well as in Merrimack County, I am comfortable with this, personally,” Richards said.

Board members Gina Cannon and Kate West voted against the measure, citing the fact that children under 12 are still ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines, and the difficulty of enforcing social distancing at recess.

“I’m still worried about the logistics around elementary students being on the playground and distancing,” West said. “And having parents that would want their kids to be masked, and whether or not a kid running around on the playground with unmasked children is going to keep their mask on just because their parents said that they want them to.”

Beating the heat proves challenging in COVID times

Concord School District declared half-days on Monday and Tuesday this week due to high heat temperatures, which rose to 94 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, and Murphy said the requirement to wear masks indoors was a factor in the decision.

“Given the forecast starting Thursday and Friday, we knew that this weather was going to be a bit challenging for our students,” Murphy said Monday.

As part of CDC-recommended COVID-19 protocols, school HVAC systems are set to draw 100% outside air into the building continuously, for maximum air circulation. Matt Cashman, director of facilities and planning, said this means hot outside air is being piped into the buildings from the school roofs, making temperatures even higher. 

Cashman said he detected temperatures as high as 79 degrees Fahrenheit Monday, at Concord High School, Beaver Meadow School and Rundlett Middle School, with a relative humidity of 63%.

“I’ve instructed the custodians to leave the windows open so that the cooler temps will come in at night and in the morning, to try and absorb as much of that cool air before things really start heating up again,” Cashman said. Murphy said the district purchased over 110 fans using COVID relief funds, and installed some single air conditioning units at Rundlett.

Teachers did continue to work Monday and Tuesday, a decision Murphy said was due to the existence of some air-conditioned spaces in the buildings where teachers could go to work.

“It’s a fact of life that in New England we do have, in June, these kinds of temperatures,” Murphy said. “We are going to deal with it with our custodians, and with the help of Matt.”




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