District requiring students to double mask for all-in school

Freshman Naomy Salazar wears one of the new masks distributed by the district that have a 90% PPE. (Photo by Emma Magee)

Students are required to wear two masks, or an equivalent, in the school at all times as a result of going back all-in Tuesday, March 23.

Interim Superintendent Dan Good said students can wear one cloth mask over a paper mask or any mask that is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention equivalent of two masks. These masks need to have a particle filtration efficiency of 85% or above because masks with a PFE of 85% are equal to wearing two masks, Good explained. He added that students can send a picture of the packaging of alternative masks to Director of Operations Harley Williams to be approved to wear.

Each student received two masks from the district that have a PFE of 90%, so they can be worn alone, and they are washable, Good explained. He added that the district ordered 6,000 masks, which cost $15,000 and were paid for through the federal relief funds.

Principal Kristin Robbins said the recommendation for the double-masking order came from the district’s health and safety COVID-19 team, consisting of epidemiologists, pediatricians, administrators and teachers.

Good explained that the evaluation team wrote a consensus statement which expressed their support for the district to return to all in-person school if at least three feet of distance was maintained between individuals and students wore two masks or the equivalent. The double-masking mandate was authorized after the Board of Education approved the consensus statement, he said.

Robbins added that Bexley is one of the only districts to require students to double mask, as many other districts do not have an official evaluation team that meets weekly. She said that the district listens to the team’s suggestions because they have been successful in keeping students safe thus far.

“We follow their recommendations all the way through and will continue to because we have not had a single case attributed to inside the building,” Robbins said.

Good explained that he is not worried about this mandate, and that he expects that students will not have a problem with double masking because many of them are just happy to be back in school.

“My senior student advisory group has told me that they would even wear four masks if that meant that they could be together with all of their friends at school,” he said.

Likewise, Robbins explained that she is not concerned with the requirement for students to double mask because she trusts the students to follow it to ensure their safety.

“I’m very comfortable with this decision, and part of my comfort is knowing how good and vigilant our kids have been about wearing masks,” she said.

Freshman Ellie Schoedinger said she is willing to wear two masks because of the safety benefits.

“I feel fine about double masking, especially with a distance of three feet versus six,” she said. “I think if the school is telling us it is necessary, then it is for the best and it will keep us safe.”

Junior Owen Gunther explained that the double masking mandate hasn’t been difficult because he chooses to wear the school-issued masks.

“I don’t mind the two mask rule because I just wear the Bexley mask,” he said. “I like wearing it because it still makes me feel safe and protected, but it feels lighter and easier than wearing two masks.”

Good said he is thankful that students have not had a problem with double masking because the mandate will most likely be in effect for the remainder of the school year, but it will be revisited for the next school year.

He added that the mask mandate will be purposeful and effective because the students and families are responsible for the safety of the student body.

“I trust our students and I trust our families to do whatever is necessary so that their children can be safe and be in school,” Good said.