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Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

Portage Park Elementary School Wants Your Help Gathering KN95 Masks For Students And Teachers

The Parent Advisory Council is hosting a mask drive to crowdsource better-fitting masks for students and teachers.

8th grade students enter Richardson Middle School as 6th thru 8th graders return to in-person learning in the West Lawn neighborhood on March 8, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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PORTAGE PARK — A parent group at one neighborhood school is organizing a mask drive to provide safer masks for students and teachers.

The Parent Advisory Council of Portage Park Elementary School, 5330 W. Berteau Ave., is looking to the community to gather KN95s, KF94s and other masks deemed safer than cloth masks. They will be given to students and staff, said council member Carie Bires, who came up with the initiative.

Experts and studies have noted masks like N95s, KN95s or similar ones with high-filtration respirators are best to combat the Omicron variant, which got Bires thinking of ways to protect the school community and make masks available to every student and teacher who wants one.

Chicago Public Schools gave out 200,000 KN95 masks to students and teachers earlier this month, and typically offer surgical masks. But more high-filtration masks are needed, Bires said.

“However many we get is great,” said Bires, whose son attends kindergarten at Portage Park Elementary. “I’m just happy to get the school community organized around something solution-oriented and help each other be safer and better.”

The parent group sent a school survey that received more than 200 responses to see what kinds of masks were desired. Many voted to get N95, KN95 and KF94 masks — though some older students expressed a desire for stylish, colorful masks, she said.

Bires put together an Amazon wishlist that neighbors can use to buy children’s masks for the school community based on those requests.

Students, parents and teachers who responded to the survey also asked for gloves for cleaning, sanitation wipes and mask accessories like lanyards.

People can ship or donate the wishlist items for students and teachers at Rep. Lindsey LaPointe’s office, 4349 N. Milwaukee Ave., as part of the drive. LaPointe’s office is working with the parent group to collect masks.

LaPointe’s office is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday, and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesdays. For more information, email info@replapointe.com.

Donations can also be delivered or dropped off at the school.

Although Chicago and Illinois passed the Omicron peak, health officials said last week that people should not drop their guard, as average cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain high. The city’s top health doctor said masks won’t be going away anytime soon.

At the elementary school, there were eight positive cases last week out of 168 students tested, according to the school’s COVID tracker.

Bires said she wants the mask drive to enhance safety and give families “an opportunity to try masks out so they don’t have to shop for a million” kinds to find the right style and fit for their children.

It was difficult for Bires to find the right curve-fitting mask for her son’s face, so she’s hopeful that with enough variety and styles, parents can skip the mask-finding hassle.

The parent group also plans to buy mask lanyards, Bires said. For more information on the mask drive, or if others want to help, email Bires at carie.bires@gmail.com.

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