RI schools being asked to end ‘mask breaks’ as pandemic worsens

School Updates

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — So-called “mask breaks” for students in K-12 schools across Rhode Island will soon become a thing of the past.

Last week, the Rhode Island Department of Health changed its guidance regarding scheduled mask breaks, which allowed students to take their masks off for a short period of time.

Under the new guidelines, students are now required to keep their masks on at all times, except for when they are eating or drinking, even if they are outdoors and/or six feet apart.

“I understand that may not be what people want to hear, but we have to be a little different, we have to act different now that the pandemic is getting worse,” Rhode Island Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald said.

If a student takes off their mask, teachers are now urged to ask them to put it back on.

“We don’t want kids to feel bad about this,” McDonald said. “We are really trying to teach our kids it’s really about protecting others right now, and protecting ourselves.”

Earlier this week, the National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals (RIFTHP) called upon Gov. Gina Raimondo to temporarily halt in-person learning for K-12 students.

When asked about the state’s new guidance on mask breaks, NEARI told 12 News in a statement that, “this confusing guidance that leads to inconsistency in rules is yet another reason for a pause of in-person learning over the holidays.”

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