Dear MCPK Community,
Many of you, both families and staff, have reached out with information and questions about face coverings. Because this is such an important piece for our re-opening procedures and for your comfort and health, I am dedicating this week’s communication exclusively to face coverings. As with all aspects of our new policies, please remember that these policies are subject to change and we are open to your input in that process.
This past Friday, Governor Murphy announced a change in NJ’s requirements for face coverings in schools. All children over the age of two are now required to wear appropriate face coverings inside the school building, unless that student has a documented medical condition, or disability as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which precludes the use of a face covering. Children may remove facemasks outdoors in extreme heat, when eating or drinking, during naptime, during high intensity physical play or when they are engaged in gym or music activities with ventilation and physical distancing (6 feet apart).
MCPK will work with our licensing expert to modify our current plan to reflect this new policy. Our staff will check in with children at regular intervals to make sure they are comfortable in their masks and remind them to take “mask breaks” whenever they are needed. We will provide a variety of controlled and safe opportunities for children to take “mask breaks” at appropriate locations within their indoor or outdoor classroom spaces. Children will only be permitted to remove their masks within their small groups when they are able to be at a safe distance from other children. Children are expected to remove and replace their masks independently—our staff will avoid touching children’s masks whenever possible. It is important that parents reinforce the importance of wearing a mask at school and model the practice at home.
MCPK will provide every child with one high quality, double layer fabric mask. The masks have a space for a filter, should parents choose to provide them. We will also provide a color-coded lanyard for each child’s mask and nametag to ensure that masks are not lost or mixed-up. Children are free to wear their own masks from home, though we ask that the masks meet the standards provided by the CDC: Click HERE for more information.
*All students should bring two masks to school every day—one that they wear and a second in a labeled ziplock bag. Any damp or soiled mask will be returned home for washing in that same bag. Cloth masks that have been worn should be washed at home before they are re-worn. We will have disposable masks available in case of emergency, but we know that children are more comfortable wearing a mask that is familiar and our supply is limited. Please reach out to Ms. Gaither, our Family Services Director, if you are struggling to access an adequate supply of masks for your child.
Some parents have asked about clear face shields in place of masks. The current guidelines require a mask be worn in addition to a face shield, though children and adults are welcome to wear face shields for added protection. MCPK will have face shields available for teachers. If a child has a documented condition that makes a face shield an option in place of a mask, we ask the shield goes around the child’s head from ear to ear and extends below the chin.
Tips for preparing your child for wearing a mask to school:
*Talk to your children about why they will need to wear a mask at school. Let them know how important it is to keep it on inside and how the mask will protect them, their teachers, friends and families.
*Please make sure that you are using the next few weeks to practice daily mask wearing with your child. Their first day of school should not be their first day wearing a mask. Think about building “stamina”—start with five minutes a day and then gradually increase the amount of time your child is expected to wear their mask by 5-10 minute intervals. Personally, I have been shocked by how well my three year old has adjusted to wearing a mask for extended periods of time—he is more comfortable wearing his than I am!
*Make sure your child knows how to put their mask on and take it off themselves (at school it will hang around their neck). Show them how to place the mask in a ziplock bag if it is wet or dirty by holding the ear straps and then remind them to wash their hands (for 20 seconds with soap and water!).
*Find a mask that is comfortable and easy for your child to use. Does he or she prefer ear loops or around the head elastic? What fabric and shape fits his or her face best? I also have found that it helped to let my child choose a fabric pattern that he likes—Paw Patrol and Monster Trucks patterns from Etsy are our current favorites.
I know that this is a lot of information and it will be a big adjustment for many of us. One thing that has helped me come to terms with this new educational reality is learning how successful preschool and camp programs have been in the last few months under these guidelines. We have been visiting and speaking with directors of programs that have been open for months or weeks, and they are surprised by how easily staff, children and families have adjusted to the “new normal”. The most common thing we hear and see is that children are just happy to be with other children playing—they are not fazed by the masks or all the changes. Most of them are able to understand the reason behind the restrictions—parents and teachers have explained the virus, keeping safe from germs and doing our part to protect each other.
Please take a few days to digest this information. Feel free to reach out with questions or to send more resources. We will have a virtual Town Hall Meeting for parents the first week in September to give everyone a chance to share your thoughts and ask questions once you have received your Welcome Packets and Handbooks.