Students have 'always' been allowed to wear masks when there is haze: Sengkang Green Primary School

Students have 'always' been allowed to wear masks when there is haze: Sengkang Green Primary School

FILE PHOTO: Public housing apartment blocks are shrouded by haze in Singapore
HDB buildings shrouded by haze in Singapore on Sep 13, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Feline Lim) 

SINGAPORE: The principal of Sengkang Green Primary School said on Tuesday (Sep 17) that it has always allowed its students to wear masks in school, a day after a Facebook post claimed otherwise. 

"For the sake of our students' well-being, we have always allowed them to wear masks in school when there is haze or whenever they feel unwell," said Mr Gau Poh Teck in response to CNA's queries. 

He added: "All of our classrooms have also been equipped with air purifiers for use during a haze situation.

"When the air quality reaches the 'very unhealthy' range, the windows and doors of the classroom will be closed and the air purifiers will be activated."

READ: Singapore's air quality worsens as PSI readings enter "unhealthy" levels again

Mr Gau also told CNA that the school has engaged the parent who posted on Facebook to "clarify that at no point did any of our teachers inform students that they were not allowed to wear face masks in school". 

He said the information shared would also be disseminated to students' parents to "reassure" them. 

In the Facebook post, user Shi Wei Long said his daughter and her schoolmates at Sengkang Green Primary School were told they were not allowed to wear their N95 masks in school. 

The N95 mask is a respirator that has been proven to provide good protection against particle pollutants as they are at least 95 per cent efficient against fine particles that are between 0.1 and 0.3 microns. 

The post continued: "Why aren't students allowed the right to protect their health when air quality is poor? 

"This happened to a few different classes and also to multiple students within the same class. Another parent at the school gates told me her child was also not allowed to wear a mask in school."

The post was later updated to say that the school had reached out to him and confirmed that students were allowed to wear masks in school and in fact, were "encouraged to do so if they felt better wearing one". 

READ: Cutting through the haze - When do you need an N95 mask? 

According to to the parent, the school was now "investigating why multiple students had told their parents that their teachers did not allow students to wear masks in class". 

He added, however, that he was still concerned air purifiers were "not used correctly" in the school. 

"For air purifiers to be effective, it has to be used in an enclosed space and not in classrooms with wide open windows and doors," he said.  

In response to queries from CNA, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said that all classrooms in primary and secondary schools, MOE kindergartens and special education schools have been equipped with air purifiers to enhance the well-being of students during a haze situation.

"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," said the ministry. 

"Therefore masks are not necessary, even for examinations, which are all conducted in enclosed indoor spaces with air purifiers."

"Nonetheless if parents and their children feel more comfortable, our students are welcome to use masks in school," said MOE. 

READ: MOE will consider closing schools when air quality forecast enters "hazardous" level

"There are currently no international certification standards for the use of masks on children. N95 masks will not be required for short-term exposure, like commuting from home to school, or when students are in an indoor environment, such as classrooms," said MOE. 

The ministry noted that the key precaution for children when there is haze is to minimise "prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion" when the 24-hour PSI is above 100 and to avoid outdoor activity when the 24-hour PSI is above 200.  

MOE also recommended that parents refer to the Health Ministry's advisory on the wearing of masks for children.

MOE had announced on Sunday that it would consider closing schools when the air quality forecast enters the "hazardous" level. 

It also assured parents that teachers would be on the lookout for students who are unwell or have pre-existing lung or heart conditions, and reminded parents to ensure their children had their medication, such as inhalers for asthma, with them. 

Source: CNA/hw(hs)

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