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Miami-Dade and Broward public schools are reopening. Are certain masks prohibited?

Miami Herald - 10/3/2020

Oct. 3--As South Florida students make their way back into school halls Monday, parents will have to become familiar with the newest addition to student essentials: masks.

Masks are a core part of Miami-Dade and Broward counties plan to increase safety in schools. This means many new policies to remember and follow.

Students, teachers, staff and anyone who walks into the school office will be required to wear a mask or face covering to help protect others from COVID-19, regardless if you have symptoms.

Some masks work better than others in keeping out potentially COVID-19-infect droplets. And some types of face coverings might not be allowed in schools. Here's what you need to know:

What are the school guidelines for masks?

Miami-Dade County Public Schools says face masks must be made from a minimum of double layer cloth and fit snugly to cover both the nose and mouth.

While everyone is required to wear a mask on the school bus and on school campus -- except during breakfast and lunch while you are eating and drinking -- there may be some exceptions to the rule.

In Broward County public schools, exceptions may include children under 2, people who are undergoing strenuous physical activity and employees and students who for medical reasons cannot wear a mask. These exceptions will require approval from the school.

In Miami-Dade, exemptions for students and adults must be requested through the school principal or site supervisor, the school district said. Documentation from a medical provider will be needed and must be filed and reviewed by school staff before an exemption can be made.

What type of mask should adults and children wear?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you wear a mask that completely covers your mouth and nose, fits snugly against the side of your face and is made up of two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric. If you wear glasses, use masks that fit closely over your nose or have a nose wire to limit fogging.

Besides the N95 mask, which officials say should only be used by healthcare workers, three-layer surgical masks and homemade cotton masks work well in reducing the transmission of respiratory droplets during regular speech. Neck fleeces, folded bandannas and knitted masks don't work as well, according to a Duke University study that tested 14 commonly available masks.

A lot of stores and online shops, including Etsy, Amazon, Old Navy and Disney, sell kid-sized face coverings. If you can't find a mask that is made for children, make sure it fits snugly over their nose, mouth and under their chin, the CDC says.

Can students and teachers wear a face shield instead of a mask?

While face shields are more comfortable than having a piece of cloth over your mouth and nose, you are not allowed to just wear a face shield instead of a mask.

"Face shields are less effective than commercial and cloth face coverings and may not be used by any persons," according to the Broward school district.

In Broward County public schools, you can wear a face shield in addition to a mask or face covering to protect your eyes. There are very few exemptions to this.

A face shield can be worn instead of a mask by those observing physical distancing and school officials that have a physical or medical condition, certified by a health care provider, that won't allow them to safely wear an approved face covering.

School district employees can also wear them in situations where it is important for students to see how teachers pronounce words. A clear mask can also be worn for that purpose.

Miami-Dade will allow face shields and other protective coverings as long as a face mask is also being used.

Are certain type of masks and face coverings not allowed?

If you're going to wear a homemade face covering, it needs to be made out of cloth, must cover your nose and mouth and must comply with the CDC's recommendations, according to Broward County Public Schools.

Students are also not allowed to wear a face covering that has printed words or designs that are suggestive, revealing or indecent. The masks print/design also cannot promote a political party or an individual seeking elected office, be associated with gangs or cults or encourage/support the use of drugs, alcohol, violence, or discrimination, according to the district's frequently asked questions.

In Miami-Dade, face coverings should not be designed as a costume or have any type of exhalation valves or vents.

What happens if a student arrives to school without a mask, keeps taking it off or refuses to wear one?

Broward County Schools said each school was given a limited personal protective package, which includes 500 three-ply face coverings for students.

The school district said these supplies will be replenished as needed but "but parents should not plan for or expect students to be presented a face covering," BCPS said.

If a Broward student refuses to wear a mask or takes it off, school officials will remind them of the mask policy then call their parents. If a student blatantly disregards the health of others they will be disciplined according to the Code of Student Conduct, which could lead to suspension.

While Miami-Dade's plan does not specifically mention if masks will be given to students who forget them, school bus drivers will give masks out to those who forget them. The plan also does not say what punishment will be given for not following mask policies.


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