What Does a 'Mask Break' Look Like?

What Does a 'Mask Break' Look Like?
Posted on 08/25/2020
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collage of students taking a mask breakFrom dancing on the playground to relocating class outside, teachers throughout Lakota are finding creative ways to give their students, and themselves, “mask breaks.”

While there may have been some concern before the start of school with how students would adapt to the new safety protocols, including wearing a face covering all day, the consensus throughout the district seems to be that they are doing a great job. “The kids are actually really good about wearing their masks inside,” remarked Freedom third grade teacher Jennifer Turner.

Well before Gov. DeWine issued a statewide mandate, Lakota Local Schools announced that face coverings would be required for all staff and students in grades K-12. “The decision to require face coverings for staff and students was not made lightly,” said Superintendent Matthew Miller. “Along with guidance from the Ohio Department of Health and CDC, we have consulted with the Butler County Health Department and infectious disease experts with regards to our safety protocols, including the requirement of face coverings.” In order to be exempt from wearing a mask or neck gaiter, a waiver must be approved by the building principal, citing a medical condition or disability.

As part of the announcement to require face coverings, mask breaks were introduced to the community. “Wearing a face covering for a full day of learning will be challenging - whether you’re an adult or a kindergartner,” said Miller. “Incorporating time during the day to be more than six feet apart from one another so that masks and gaiters can come off will be an important part of the school day.”

So just how are teachers doing this? By making it part of the daily routine.

For younger grades, “brain breaks” are often part of the school day to give the students a chance to “get the wiggles out.” Now, mask breaks are often included. Turner intends to be flexible with mask breaks, based on the needs of her students. During the first week of school, she took advantage of the nice weather and led her class in a spirited game of Simon Says on the blacktop. “I think it is really hard for them to just be sitting in one spot all day long,” Turner noted. “I never realized how much students actually move around the classroom until this year. The need for mask breaks is a must, even if it is just as a brain break.”

Eunice Vogelsang and Kristin Sellers, first grade team-teachers at Heritage Early Childhood School, were seen reading a story to their students outside on the first day of school. “Right now we are using our morning recess for our mask break and then...lunch...is really another time they get to take off their masks,” explained Sellers. In addition to a scheduled break in the afternoon, Seller said she and Vogelsang will take their cues from the students if another break is needed. “Our mask breaks are really being introduced as part of our “normal” routine now,” Sellers continued. “The kids seem very accepting and happy to take the masks off for a bit. I know they enjoy seeing our faces and their friends' faces.”

With daily block schedules at the secondary schools, some teachers are taking the opportunity to incorporate mask breaks into their plans as well. Lisa James, a math teacher at Lakota East High School, is planning to give her students a break midway through their 90-minute classes, and will even move class outside. So far, she has been impressed with her students’ resiliency. “The kids do great!” she said. When she noticed a group of students wearing masks outside they told her they “had forgotten they were on.” 

Students in Joe Kornau’s math classes at Liberty Junior School have already experienced class in the great outdoors -  complete with their chairs and district-owned Chromebooks. “The students really seemed to enjoy going outside,” Kornau said. “By having the students in chairs, it cuts down on them forgetting to socially distance. They realize that it is a privilege to do this and have been doing their best to follow my rules.”

Kornau’s biggest surprise this year is the change in not being able to see a student’s reaction because of a face covering. “I never knew I relied so much on facial expressions to read whether a student gets the topic, is struggling, or needs help.”

Throughout the district, students have shown their willingness to acclimate to the new safety protocols because of COVID-19. Turner echoes what others have noted, saying, “I am really impressed by the kids this year and how well they have adapted to all of the changes in school. I think mask breaks are one positive change to their year filled with so many rules and safety precautions.” She went on to predict, “I also feel that the kids are just going to get even better with their masks as it becomes a daily routine for them.”