Students can wear masks in school if they want to, MOE assures parents

A student from Nanhua Primary School wearing a mask while walking to school on Sept 16, 2019.
A student from Nanhua Primary School wearing a mask while walking to school on Sept 16, 2019.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Students are allowed to wear masks in school if they want to in the light of the haze situation, the Ministry of Education (MOE) assured parents yesterday, even as many debated whether there was a need to.

However, wearing an N95 mask is not necessary with the measures in place, said the ministry.

This comes after a parent posted on Facebook on Monday that her daughter's primary school allegedly did not allow pupils to wear N95 masks in school.

Replying to queries from The Straits Times, an MOE spokesman said all classrooms of primary and secondary schools, MOE kindergartens as well as special education schools are equipped with air purifiers to ensure students' well-being when the haze worsens here.

When the air quality hits the very unhealthy range, or when required, schools will close the doors and windows of classrooms and turn on the air purifiers.

"Therefore, masks are not necessary, even for examinations, which are all conducted in enclosed indoor spaces with air purifiers," said the spokesman. "Nonetheless, if parents and their children feel more comfortable, students are welcome to use masks in school."

Noting that there was currently no international certification standards for children's use of masks, the MOE said N95 masks would not be required for short-term exposure, such as when commuting from home to school, or when students are in an indoor environment such as classrooms.

"The key precaution for children to take during the haze is to minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion when the forecast air quality is in the unhealthy range, and to avoid outdoor activity when the forecast air quality is in the very unhealthy range," said the spokesman.

A 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index reading of 101 to 200 is in the unhealthy range. A reading of 201 to 300 is in the very unhealthy range.

 
 
 
 

The principal of the school highlighted in the Facebook post said it always allows face masks when there is haze or when pupils feel unwell. At no point did any of the teachers inform pupils they were not allowed to wear face masks in school, he said, adding: "We will share this information with all our (pupils') parents to reassure them."

Parents had differing views on their children wearing masks in school. In the post by the parent who raised the issue, Facebook user Cherie Tan asked if parents were being overprotective of their children and noted that PSI levels were not in the very unhealthy range.

Senior network engineer Ajith Raveendran, 35, on the other hand, would want his son in pre-school to wear a mask in class but would not take more drastic steps for now.

The father of two boys, aged five and one, said his sons were sensitive to airborne allergens, adding: "We worry because the haze can trigger cough and health issues. But instead of taking any drastic measures, we choose to follow the guidelines set by the authorities."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2019, with the headline 'Students can wear masks in school if they want to, MOE assures parents'. Print Edition | Subscribe