While government is in transition, the private and nonprofit sectors must continue to step up. One place where we can make a difference is protecting students, teachers and school staff at America's most under-resourced schools as they pursue in-person instruction.
In-person instruction varies across the country, but one thing is certain: masks matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , cloth masks in schools can help slow the spread of COVID-19, along with mitigation measures like hand-washing, social distancing and regular cleansing and disinfecting of frequently-touched surfaces in schools and buses.
America’s Mask Challenge calls on companies and organizations to help get 200 million cloth masks to 40 million students, teachers and school staff at 56,000 schools receiving federal Title I funding. That translates roughly to five washable masks per person, delivered during the second half of the 2020-2021 school year. Distribution is starting in mid-December.
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.
The Challenge is led by United Way Worldwide, the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit. Key partners in this effort are The Business Roundtable, a nonprofit comprising 182 CEOs of major United States companies, and the CDC Foundation.
HanesBrands Inc., a leading global marketer of branded everyday basic apparel, is the first company to join the Challenge, with a donation of 25 million masks. Hanes will produce the masks at cost, and coordinate with United Way and school leaders on delivery.
United Way expresses our thanks to the following partners: