'We regret any inconvenience': Students receive poor-fitting masks from school board

Students from the Wellington Catholic District School Board received masks that were too big ahead of the return to in-person learning, according to the board.

Diane Gregory’s kids were included in the first shipment of masks ahead of the return to in-person learning, but she decided to use masks she purchased instead.

"They fit my face, so I'm guessing that they don't fit my kindergarten kids," Gregory said. "They just didn't seem to be the quality that I had hoped it would be."

A spokesperson with the school board said they've been working to rectify the issue.

"Many of the masks were suitable for older elementary and secondary schools. However, there were issues for students in our primary grades. The masks were received in bulk orders of child masks and adult-sized masks and we since used previously stocked three-ply child sized masks that provided a better fit to our schools and families," Ali Wilson, Communications Officer for the Wellington Catholic District School Board said in an email. "Once we learned that the child sized masks were larger than the masks previously received earlier in the year and posed an issue for some primary-aged students, we notified principals and arranged shipment of smaller three-ply masks from our current stock."

The board said schools started to receive the new shipments of masks on Thursday and Friday.

The Ministry of Education said the masks are good for 20 washes and believes a mix-up in distribution lead to the issue.

"When boards place orders for these masks, they have the flexibility to order whatever volume in whatever size they would like and need for their student populations," Caitlin Clark, director of media relations for the Ministry of Education said in an email. "With even more shipments of varying sizes on the way, we encourage boards to work with students to ensure they’re receiving the right size option. It seems these students have just received the wrong size from their school board."

According to Zahid Butt, an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Public Health Sciences, any face covering is better than nothing, however it’s important it fits properly.

"If you have a loose fitting mask, not only will you exhale outside, the other particles might enter inside your mouth or nose," Butt said. "It's not just about the three-ply layer, it's about the right fit. The mask should fit snugly around the nose, mouth and chin and there should not be any gaps anywhere."

Butt said N95 and K95 masks are the best, but anything helps.

"It would not have the same protection as the N95 masks. Having said that, you need to have other measures in place to stop the transmission," Butt said.

Butt said continuing to follow all Public Health guidelines and getting vaccinated are the best way to protect the community from COVID-19.