Will Children Have to Wear Masks When They Return to School? Officials Weigh in on Fall Plans



RELATED: Here’s How to Correctly and Safely Wear a Face Mask, Plus How to Not Fog up Your Glasses

Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent Aleesia Johnson tells PEOPLE the district is giving all 31,000 students and their parents the option to attend in-person classes or participate in virtual learning, giving families the freedom to decide.

The school district will enforce a mask requirement for students who choose to attend in-person classes or ride IPS buses, though Marion County — which oversees 10 other schools — is only requiring it for students who are in the 6th grade and above. Exceptions at IPS will be made for students and staff who have health conditions or physical disabilities that prevent them from applying and removing the facial covering.

"We understand that wearing masks for some children might be a little bit challenging, but we teach kids how to tie their shoes and how to read, and this is just another thing that we'll teach them and help them learn and get used to and understand the importance of," Johnson says.

She also notes that there will be designated "mask-break" times throughout the day (such as when students are outdoors for physical education) and other safety measures, including social distancing, assigned seats on buses, eating lunch in classrooms and requiring fillable water bottles instead of drinking directly from fountains.

Meanwhile, public schools in Texas, Pennsylvania, Utah and North Carolina have all said they're requiring masks in their buildings for everyone. Seattle Public Schools will also require masks, their media specialist confirms to PEOPLE.

But not all schools that are physically bringing students and faculty back will be making facial coverings mandatory.

For Columbus City Schools in Ohio, masks will be required for all staff and students who ride on the Columbus City buses, but will only be "recommended" for students in the schools.

A PowerPoint presentation given by the city's Reopening Task Force on June 30 indicated that their plan to ensure safety is to split students into two groups and have them come into school twice a week (either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday).

The remaining three weekdays will serve as remote learning days for the students, while teachers will be required to provide in-person instruction four days out of the week, leaving Wednesday as the designated "support services" and cleaning day.

Like IPS, there will be other safety measures, including social distancing and installing physical barriers and hand sanitizer machines in every building.

Buford City Schools in Georgia said it will be adopting a policy that makes masks "strongly encouraged" for students in schools, but required on buses. Meanwhile, Buford City staff will only be mandated to wear masks in common areas and when social distancing is not possible.

Larger school systems like the Department of Education in Orange County, California — a system that oversees 600 public schools — and Minnesota's biggest school district, DeSoto County Schools, confirmed that facial coverings are "encouraged" for students and staff, especially when social distancing is not feasible, but not required.

Other areas of the country, like Dickson County Schools in Tennessee, said masks are only "optional" for students and staff, according to The Tennessean.

The Center for Disease Control maintains its stance that although face coverings may be "challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings," wearing one can prevent the spread of the virus.

As of Friday, there have been over 3.1 million cases and 133,079 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times.

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