As school districts across the country determine their plans for reopening schools in the fall, many are wondering what personal protective equipment may be offered or required for students, staff, and other employees. Face shields can play an important role in providing necessary protection to teachers and students, while allowing for better interpersonal communication and accommodation for diverse student needs.
Face shields have been proven in multiple studies to be an effective barrier against infection for diseases like the coronavirus. In the school setting, where children may be less able to control coughs, sneezes, or bodily fluids, a face shield offers a key layer of protection for teachers and staff in direct contact with students.
In Singapore, schools have successfully reopened with face shields provided to all teachers and staff. In addition to measures like staggered schedules and some distance learning, providing PPE to students and teachers has allowed schools to continue to serve students.
In addition to the added protection against infection, face shields can be essential for allowing teachers to effectively communicate with students. Clear communication is especially important for younger students as they learn to speak and read, and much of that communication happens through facial expressions.
The clear plastic of a face shield allows students to follow an instructor's expressions. The Minnesota Department of Health notes this advantage, saying in their “2020-2021 Planning Guide for Schools” that “using a face shield...offers protection for the wearer and allows visibility of facial expressions and lip movements for speech perception.” Imagine learning to read without viewing an instructors lips form words and sounds or a child confused by facial expressions hidden by a face mask.
Finally, a face shield can also be imperative for special needs students and others for whom a mask may be a hindrance to breathing or their ability to function in the classroom. A face shield could be a solution to both protect these students and allow them to participate in the school setting.
School administrators interested in purchasing face shields can visit the Pay It Forward PPE webstore for their back to school shopping lists!