Durham, NC – Governor Roy Cooper is expected to provide more details on Wednesday about the reopening of public schools across North Carolina during the pandemic, but if and when students return to class, masks will be worn.
The State Department of Public Education wants all school staff to wear masks, as well as all middle and high school students, including on school buses and outside school buildings when distancing social is difficult. Masks are “strongly encouraged” for elementary school students.
DPI guidelines were updated last week to comply with the state’s new requirement that people 11 and older cover their faces in public to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“We will follow this advice to a minimum. We know masks are important to our students and staff to help keep everyone safe,” Chip Sudderth, spokesman for Durham public schools, said on Tuesday. “We also want to have masks on all of our elementary students. We recognize that the younger the student, the harder it can be to keep the mask.”
Jameya Green, who has worked with elementary, middle and high school students during her six years in the district, said she did not think that asking students to wear masks throughout the school day would work.
“I think it’s necessary, but I don’t think it’s possible,” said Green. “Elementary and middle school students may find it difficult to keep it on their face and keep their hands away from their face without pulling it down, or even with elementary students who can play with others, lowering their mask [and] to run away. “
Tori Mazur, a teacher at Hope Valley Elementary School, agreed on the “relevance of development” for masks.
“My second year students are very delicate. … If I were to ask them to wear a mask, I don’t know if it would be alright,” said Mazur. “But after teaching middle and high school kids, who can make decisions about their bodies and when it’s appropriate for breathing and emergencies, I think they can handle it. But it also depends on what the adults are doing around of them.”
Yet, she said, adults who model appropriate behavior will be essential to adapting students to wearing masks at school.
“If the community comes together and sends the message that this is normalized, the children will join it,” she said.
DPS plans to issue each student with three washable, reusable masks, said Sudderth.
“We will take the masks as far as possible,” he said, agreeing that teachers and other school staff must become role models for wearing masks. “Our ideal is that each student has a mask from the moment they get on the bus until they get home.”
Avis Dixon, who has a grandson in a Durham college, said she would like schools to require masks for all ages.
“This COVID does not know an age, it does not know a color, it does not know a race,” said Dixon. “For the protection of our young people, so that they can [elementary] from school to college to high school, they must be protected. “
DPS also plans to continue online courses for all high school students this fall, said Sudderth, in order to free up these classrooms as elementary and middle school students are moved for more social distancing.
“We know that, especially in our community, child care is a major concern, and having a safe place every day to receive continuing education is important for all of our students, but our youngest students are especially vulnerable, “he said. “By freeing up space in our secondary schools, we can distribute our elementary and middle school students to the neighborhood.”
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