Superintendent: It’s ‘unrealistic’ to expect 5-year-olds to wear masks

For students who dread smelling their own breath all day long underneath increasingly damp and dirty face masks, the superintendent of Oak Harbor public schools is on your side.

As things currently stand, teachers and students in Washington state public schools will be expected to wear face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when school returns in the fall.

But Oak Harbor school officials hope and believe this guidance will change before school actually restarts.

Lance Gibbon, superintendent of Oak Harbor schools, said in a Virtual Community Q&A with Island County Public Health Director Keith Higman last week that he simply doesn’t think 5-year-old children can be expected to wear face masks all day long.

“I don’t think that’s very realistic,” he said.

If face coverings are required, Gibbon said teachers would likely wear clear plastic masks that the district may also supply to students.

Gibbon made it clear that he believes the face-to-face instruction at the schools is vastly superior to online learning. He said school officials estimate that students learned less than 50 percent of what they would have learned online this year compared to classroom instruction.

Gibbon said he’s also concerned about the issue of equity.

While some parents have limited resources and limited time to aid their children with online learning and online homework, other parents might have all the time in the world.

The result, he said, is not “an equitable opportunity” for all students.

Yet the most important, overarching concern, Gibbon said, is the safety of students and the people who work at the school. The most powerful tool to that end, he said, is for people to stay home when they are sick.

He said there’s a simple check list that parents and staff members will be asked to consider each day.

In classrooms, the school district’s goal is to maintain the six-foot distancing rule. Gibbon admitted that kids will come closer than that in the hallway, but they will still be within the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines.

Higman pointed out that CDC rules about distancing and masks are evolving. Any rules will be based on the best science at the time.

Gibbon said he’s especially concerned about choir because the disease spreads more easily through singing. The class, he said, has to find a way of doing social distancing more effectively.

More in News

Volunteer burnout a problem for fire district, according to chief

Availability of firefighters has become a critical need for South Whidbey Fire/EMS… Continue reading

Contest invites kids to get crafty

Kids with a big imagination can now participate in a local art… Continue reading

Oak Harbor staff works to clarify zoning code

Island County Superior Court ruled against Oak Harbor’s low-income housing development for… Continue reading

Sailor follows her father’s path to NAS Whidbey

Past and present collided recently when Naval Linguist Abigail Burns posed in… Continue reading

School board planning equity policy

South Whidbey School Board took its first steps towards evaluating its education… Continue reading

Food program for children expands to week of meals

A South Whidbey food program providing weekend meals for children and their… Continue reading

LIHI appealing court ruling against downtown housing project

The nonprofit organization that attempted to build low-income housing in downtown Oak… Continue reading

Photo provided
                                Staff from Island Drug at Ken’s Korner are being temporarily relocated to the Oak Harbor store while efforts to secure a new South Whidbey location continue. From left to right: Store Manager and Pharmacy Technician Rachel Soto-Paulus, Pharmacy Technician Merissa Dahlman and Pharmacist Rich Russo.
Pharmacy leaving its Ken’s Korner location

After 15 years at Ken’s Korner in Clinton, Island Drug is looking… Continue reading

COVID-19 uptick deemed no cause for alarm

Thirteen additional people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Island County in… Continue reading

Most Read