For schools and childcare centers reopening in person this fall, safety is the highest priority. That means temperature checks, hand sanitizer and that gold standard of pandemic safety: the mask.

But for very young children, masks present a classroom challenge. While it's important to cover your nose and mouth to prevent the spread of disease, masks also obscure facial expressions. This can impede the progress of early learners, who rely on modeling for linguistic and social cues. 

To combat this, experts have developed masks with transparent panels over the mouth. While they may look silly, they are an invaluable tool to students who are just learning to speak. 

"With these masks, kids can see their teacher's facial expression and their smile," said Rachel Berger, our Director of Jewish Life and Learning. "It sounds like a small thing but it's really important for child development."

To support our Jewish day schools and preschools as they begin the new school year, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has purchased and will distribute 15,000 of these transparent masks. The initiative arose out of our COVID-19 Emergency Response Committee, who realized that—since these masks cannot be purchased in stores and must be bought in bulk—a community convener was needed to get them in teachers' hands.

Any Jewish preschool, day school or supplementary education program is eligible to receive masks, provided they are meeting in person. Each teacher will receive several masks to allow for proper disinfection. As of publication, 3,600 of the masks have already been distributed.

"This is a great example of how the Jewish Federation can use our purchasing power to make a difference," said Berger. "We can take on and solve a problem that's affecting the whole community."