TAMPA, Fla. — As parents and teachers get ready to go back to school next month, many are starting to look for those necessary school supplies. This year for most, that includes facemasks.

What You Need To Know

  • Jennifer Lumm says she needed specialty masks for special-ed students

  • She said masks with clear inserts will be vital for them

  • The Mask Project of Tampa Bay donated masks to Lumm

Every year elementary school special education teacher Jennifer Lumm has to come up with her list of school supplies.

“My normal school year for my students personally, they need the typical notebook, they need their adaptive crayons, and that kind of stuff, which the school board is great at supplying all of that,” Lumm said.

But this year is a little bit different since we’re in the middle of a pandemic. And Lumm and her two teacher’s assistants are going to need a little extra for her student’s special needs.

“My students in particular being non-verbal, they have communication disorders that go along with the autism, and when you’re looking at somebody’s facial expressions,” she said.

 With a mask requirement in most school districts, she said the specialty masks you’re used to seeing with the clear insert for those who are deaf or hard of hearing are going to be vital.

 “When you’re teaching reading to students and you’re telling them to make the “B” sound. How are they going to see you make the “B” sound if they can’t see your lips? So that’s why these masks with the clear part are going to be great, because at least they can see your instruction,” Lumm explained.

Those facemasks can be pricey. So when Lumm heard about all of the work the Mask Project Tampa Bay was doing for healthcare workers and schools, she turned to them for help. It’s something the group was happy to do.

 “It’s a great feeling to know we’re helping. That’s why we’re here. That’s why we have as many volunteers as we do,” The Mask Tampa Bay Creator Penny Foote said. “There’s probably 5,000 people in our group. Some are people who requested masks, but most of them are volunteers. “

It’s just one of the many signs that Lumm says is encouraging about the path forward for kids returning to school. Lumm said she doesn’t expect most of her students to be required to wear a face covering because of their medical conditions. But she hopes the masks The Mask Project Tampa Bay provides will provide a much needed layer of protection in her classroom.

The Mask Project of Tampa Bay provides those masks free of charge. Something they’re able to do thanks to donations, but those funds are running out.