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Business Leaders Launch Effort to Get Masks to Under-Resourced Schools

We are partnering with the Business Roundtable and the CDC Foundation to launch America’s Mask Challenge January 7, 2021

Our nonprofit is partnering with the Business Roundtable and the CDC Foundation to launch America’s Mask Challenge, an effort to underwrite and deliver 200 million washable face masks to every student, teacher and staff member in America’s most under-resourced schools.

The goal of the Challenge is to get cloth masks to 40 million students, teachers and staff members at schools receiving federal Title I funding. That translates roughly to five washable masks per person. The challenge launches in mid-December, to expedite mask delivery for the second half of the school year. President-elect Joe Biden vowed yesterday to safely reopen most schools in his first 100 days.

While in-person instruction varies across the country, one thing is certain: masks matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cloth masks in schools can help slow the spread of the coronavirus, along with other mitigation strategies like hand-washing, social distancing and regular cleansing and disinfecting of frequently-touched surfaces in schools and buses.

Keeping students, teachers and staff safe requires adequate resources. A typical school district with about 3,700 students needed about $1.8 million to reopen this fall, according to some estimates. That covers cleaning, extra staff and masks. But many schools serving high percentages of children from low-wage families have had to scramble for essential supplies. Schools in high-poverty districts are historically underfunded, and low-wage families can’t make up the difference. Too often, teachers use their own resources to provide basics for America’s most vulnerable children.

America’s Mask Challenge is an opportunity to help protect the 37 million students, 4 million teachers and school staff at 56,000 schools receiving federal Title I funding, said our nonprofit President and CEO Tina Smith. “We have to do right by students, teachers and staff working hard to maintain critical learning during these difficult times,” he said. “Making sure they have reusable masks is part of our effort to help create equitable, safe and healthier communities for all.”

It’s important for America’s business community to support the Mask Challenge, said Joshua Edwards. “We know that one of the most effective things we can do to protect American lives and to ensure a safe and rapid economic recovery is to wear face coverings,” Edwards said.

“Business Roundtable is proud to support this effort to protect students, teachers and staff members at America’s most under-resourced schools. Safely reopening schools is critical to protecting the mental and physical well-being of our kids. Failure to do so will widen the education gap and hurt economic livelihoods of millions of struggling families across the country.”

The CDC recommends that people, including teachers, staff, and students, wear masks in public settings as able when around people who live outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

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