‘Mask breaks’ and timed hand-washing: New NYC school rules

Five daily classroom “mask breaks” are among the new COVID rules and rituals greeting students and teachers at a Bronx elementary school.

There will also be timed hand-washing, scheduled restroom visits, and students eating lunch at their desks without looking at the teacher giving a lesson.

“We were told the teachers would be standing the back of the room, and the kids facing forward,” a teacher told The Post, saying this is meant to prevent spreading the virus.

Like all city schools planning to reopen Sept. 10,  PS 333, the Longwood Academy of Discovery, is scrambling to come with routines and protocols that follow Department of Education guidelines.

Under DOE rules, everyone must wear masks in the classroom.

But according to the list of  “daily rituals” Principal Victoria Najera gave teachers:  “A minimum of five mask breaks must occur in the classroom.” The teacher decides when to give the mask breaks.

The city Department of Education encourages mask breaks, especially for younger children, but it says they should occur only “in a well ventilated space” or outdoors with students socially distanced six feet apart. And teachers must keep their own masks on even outside.

A graphic showing the rituals that will be enforced at the school.
A graphic showing the rituals that will be enforced at the school.

The DOE does not recommend a specific number of mask breaks. “We encourage elementary schools to work mask breaks into their programming where appropriate,” said spokesman Nathaniel Styer.

Some teachers think it’s not a good idea to give so many breaks.

“Letting them take it on and off all day long is going to encourage them to not take it seriously,” one said.

If kids refuse to wear their masks, they will be taken to a “SAVE” room, used for disruptive children, where staff will try to persuade them to cooperate. If they don’t, the school will call their parents.

Other “daily rituals” include:

–A  ‘’scheduled time for hand washing” in the restroom if the room does not have a sink. Or kids can just use hand sanitizer.

–A “bathrooming” schedule to avoid overcrowding.

–A 15-minute stretch break in the yard — while maintaining social distancing.

Between all that, teachers have to conduct a jam-packed set of lessons, even during lunch. For grades K-2, that includes blocks of phonics, reading, writing and math.

The 625-student school will be broken into three groups for blended learning — a mix of in-person and remote — and a fourth for kids in fully remote classes.  The blended kids will come to school a total five days every three weeks, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The principal asks parents to take  their children’s temperature in the morning, keep them home with a temperature higher than 100 degrees, and pick them up “asap” if their kids get sick at school.

“If your child is sick with COVID,” she adds, “they must stay home for 14 days and may only return when provided a letter from the doctor.”


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