Are Utah public school students wearing masks?

Students line up to have their temperature checked before entering PS 179 elementary school in the Kensington neighborhood, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Gov. Gary Herbert has mandated that all Utah public schools require their students to wear masks in class. Students are encouraged to social distance and follow CDC guidelines in order for schools to remain open.

Tiffany Johnson, a student-teacher at a junior high in the Alpine School District, teaches eighth-graders who she said have been compliant for the most part.

“They’re fairly good at wearing their masks,” Johnson said. “I have never seen a kid refuse to wear a mask, and they seem willing even if they sometimes get annoyed with them on all day.”

Johnson said most eighth graders want to be in school to see their friends, so they’re fine with wearing their masks so they can keep that social interaction.

“One of the hardest things is to get them to cover their noses, but it turned out some of the kids didn’t know their mouths and noses were connected, so a teacher had to explain it to them,” Johnson said.

This concept, while fairly simple to explain to eighth-graders, may be more difficult with younger children who don’t know any better.

Katie Knighting has two children in junior high and two in elementary school in Utah County. Her children would much rather deal with masks than have school canceled, but during recess and lunch, when masks might be needed the most, they are taken off.

“The junior high kids wear them in most of their classes, but it seems like they don’t wear them in the halls and as soon as they walk outside, they come off,” Knighting said.

Private schools in Utah County are working differently. Alpine resident Johanna Johnson Warr’s younger children attend a private school, where masks are required to be worn all day long, even during recess and breaks.

One suggestion from the CDC is to write initials on students’ masks so that children will be less likely to swap them by accident. They also suggest visual materials as classroom aides that encourage proper use of masks, how to wash hands, social distancing, etc.

Most importantly, the CDC recommends that parents practice mask-wearing with their children at home to better prepare them for safe in-person learning.

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