Face mask policy outlines rules for Lincoln schools

Face mask policy outlines rules for Lincoln schools

LINCOLN – The Lincoln School Department has approved an official policy regarding face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving school officials the power to discipline those who do not comply.

The first reading of the policy was done at last week’s School Committee meeting, and the committee met again virtually on Monday for a special meeting to approve the policy for immediate implementation.

According to the state-mandated policy, face coverings must be worn in Lincoln schools by all staff, students and visitors on school grounds or attending school activities.

This marks a reversal of the Rhode Island Department of Education’s early approach to face coverings, which was to require them except when students or staff were socially distanced or in a stable group setting.

Over the summer, state officials decided that face covering should be required at all times, even when socially distanced outdoors. As of Nov. 10, scheduled mask breaks are no longer encouraged.

According to Lincoln’s policy, all face coverings should, at a minimum, include two or more layers, they must cover the nose and mouth and be secured under the chin, and they must fit snugly against the side of the face with no gaps.

Masks may not have exhalation valves or vents, and gaiters and bandanas are not permitted. A face shield can be worn along with a mask.

Students who do not arrive at school with a face covering will be provided with a disposable mask according to the policy, but the masks “should be provided by the student/family.” Reusable face coverings should be washed daily, according to the policy.

The policy mandates that during sports and related activities, all athletes must have an approved face covering with them at all times and follow the athletic guidance from the school district, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League and CDC based on the requirements of their sport.

There are also consequences for not complying with the policy.

Students refusing to wear a face covering may be required to attend school via virtual learning, according to the policy, and non-compliant staff may be subject to discipline.

Third parties who do not follow the policy “shall not be allowed to enter school facilities or attend school events.”

Face coverings are not required when eating breakfast or during snack time and lunch period, when social distancing protocols are followed. The only other exceptions are as follows:

• When a staff member or student is either alone in a room or alone with parents or guardians, they may remove their face covering.

• Cloth face coverings should not be placed on children younger than age 2.

• No one within the developmentally delayed population will be forced to wear a face covering.

In Lincoln, “mask breaks” may occur during the day, “as determined by the principal and where appropriate social distancing can be maintained. Breaks should occur when students can be consistently six or more feet apart and ideally outside or at least with the windows open.”