Masks required for all when students return to Wake County schools
Posted October 13, 2020 9:31 a.m. EDT
Updated October 13, 2020 6:07 p.m. EDT
In-person learning will resume for Wake County pre-kindergarten through third grade on Oct. 26. Before students return to the classroom, Wake County Public School System is urging parents to get their children ready for big changes.
Masks will be required for all students and staff on school property, including buses and playgrounds. Schools will have extra masks available and will work with students who have medical issues.
"If a family has medical reasons why they believe a child should not wear a face covering, we encourage them to reach out to the school and really start that conversation," said Heather Lawing, a spokesperson for the school system.
The school system's student code of conduct says students and staff must follow the mask guideline if they want to come to school.
"If a student is not following that, we will do everything we can to support that student, to work with them to find out what the issue may be about, reach out to the family," explained Lawing. "Ultimately, it will come back to that student code of conduct."
Anyone on school property will be required to wear a well-fitting mask. Gaiters will also be accepted, but wearing only a face shield will not be allowed.
"We want parents to know that if someone doesn't have one, or anything happens to it during the day, we've got some extras at school," said Lawing. "We are going to make sure everyone has access to a face covering, and we want everyone to be wearing a face covering anytime they are on school property."
Lawing suggested parents work with their children to get them comfortable with wearing a mask for an extended amount of time.
"Have them wear that face covering and build up that tolerance, so it won't be such a shock, and it won't be so difficult for them when they get back into the school building," she said.
The Wake County Public School System posted a complete guide to face coverings and how they should be handled at school. Parents can also submit their own questions online.
The guide is based on seven frequently asked questions, including:
1. Do all students have to wear face coverings?
Yes. Students must wear face coverings anytime they are on school grounds, both indoors and outdoors. The masks may only be removed for eating, drinking or during a specified face covering break. Masks must also be worn on buses.
2. Are there requirements for the types of face coverings that must be worn?
Yes. Face coverings must fit snugly against the sides of the student's face, be reasonably comfortable, allow them to breathe easily, be secured safely over nose, mouth and under chin and be changed if it becomes soiled or wet.
3. Can my child wear a gaiter (which resembles a bandana)?
Yes, if they are secured safely over their nose, mouth and under their chin. The CDC still recommends masks for optimal protection.
4. Can students wear a face covering with a vent?
No. The CDC does not recommend these.
5. Can my child wear a face shield instead of a face covering?
No. The CDC does not recommend these, as they may be less effective.
6. What if my child won’t wear a face covering?
Parents should work with children to help them get used to face masks -- and find a comfortable one they like. WCPSS recommends working with children at home, showing younger kids photos of children in face masks or putting them on stuffed animals. Use positive reinforcement to teach children to wear face masks and practice hand hygiene and social distancing.
7. What if the face covering doesn’t fit?
Parents should work with their children to find a comfortable face covering that fits them well. The N.C. Department of Health and Human services offers these guidelines to finding face masks that fit.
Other questions include:
1. Will teachers be able to help students adjust their mask?
Staff can help, but it's best for students to come to school with their face mask already adjusted.
2. What happens if my student forgets their mask? Will schools have extras?
The school will have extra face coverings for anyone who forgets to bring one. Students and staff are encouraged to bring their own back-up masks each day.
3. Why happens if a classmate repeatedly refuses to wear the mask properly? How will the teacher be supported ?
Schools will adhere to the Student Code of Conduct for students not following health and safety requirements.
4. Will my 4-year-old Pre-K student have to wear a face covering?
Pre-K students are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings.
5. Will students get a break from their mask during the 7-hour school day?
Schools may give students a brief face covering break only if they are outside, spaced 8-10 feet away from other people, stationary, and facing the same direction as other students and staff.