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Delta, Mask Mandates, Worried Parents: JHU Experts Can Discuss Back-to-School Concerns

August 12, 2021
CONTACT: Jill Rosen
Cell: 443-547-8805
jrosen@jhu.edu jhunews@jhu.edu

Children nationwide are returning to school but not all regions are following CDC guidance on mask-wearing. Johns Hopkins University experts can offer perspective and context on the mixed messages parents, teachers and students are hearing, and what educators should be doing to prepare schools.

Available experts will include:

Annette C. Anderson

Annette C. Anderson, deputy director of the Center for Safe and Healthy Schools. Anderson, who is a professor in the School of Education, is also a former teacher and principal. She was part of the team that launched the university’s School Reopening Policy Tracker last year.

Anderson says:

  • Lack of consistency around mask mandates and vaccine mandates make it difficult for parents to trust that reopening schools is a good idea
  • Once again this fall, we find ourselves in a questioning whether it is “safe and healthy” to put children back into classrooms
  • The Biden administration, with input from the CDC, should be more clear and explicit as students head back about the guidelines on what a “safe and healthy” classroom looks like and what should happen in those cases where classrooms cannot meet the “safe and healthy” threshold. It is unsettling to me that we are in YEAR THREE of this pandemic education process and the federal government is still behind the eight ball on this.
  • A safe and healthy classroom should ideally address the following key issues: teacher vaccination status, mask mandate (or not), classroom size, window locations, ventilation levels, and social distancing for classes, lunch, and specials like physical education and music (how do you participate in band with a mask?)
  • A school should not only have a plan for reopening, but how they will communicate the plan if schools shift to hybrid or virtual once again this fall (it is coming).

Odis Johnson

Odis Johnson, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, an a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of social policy and STEM equity. He is a leading researcher of social inequity in America.

Johnson says:

  • Masks are not a remedy, they are a temporary fix that only a vaccine can make long-lasting. Approval of vaccines for young kids may not happen until 2022.
  • In terms of policy, mask mandates only kick the can further down the road for eligible yet unvaccinated students. At some point, municipal and state governments will need to enforce vaccine laws for students who are eligible.
  • Similar to dress code policies, which are in place in most schools nationwide, educational leaders routinely have determined what outerwear is essential to maintain an environment conducive to learning. This includes the use of masks.
  • Families should communicate to their educational leaders whether their objection of masks is really a preference to continue hybrid and virtual learning arrangements until vaccines have been approved for all age groups.
  • Families and educators alike may have uncertainty about the feasibility and effectiveness of a mask mandate in schools with young highly active kids.

To reach either expert, please contact Jill Rosen, jrosen@jhu.edu.                                                                                                              

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