The Netherlands offers a strategy for avoiding school mask mandates this fall.

Anthony LaMesa
4 min readJun 29, 2022

We need a national ventilation toolkit for public schools.

Masks are a problematic intervention in schools. They are difficult for children to properly wear, interfere with reading instruction, and hinder the social and emotional development of children by hiding facial expressions. For these and other reasons, European countries masked less in their schools than the United States and never masked children under six anywhere in society. This doesn’t mean that they ignored the coronavirus, however. While Americans fought vicious battles over “facial decorations,” European countries embraced simple strategies to better ventilate their schools.

Germany unveiled a national “airing strategy” for classrooms — basically, opening the windows on a regular basis — but the Netherlands went a step further with a comprehensive national “ventilation package” for the country’s schools.

“Pupils and teachers have the right to healthy air in the classroom,” Wiersma said. “In particular, with coronavirus, we have to do all we can to keep schools open in a responsible manner.”

The good thing about improving ventilation in schools, compared to mandating cloth masks — masks that few children will properly wear — is that ventilation actually works. One Italian study found that efficient ventilation systems “can reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in schools by more than 80%.”

The impressive Dutch package, I think, offers a roadmap for a U.S. school ventilation policy. It consists of three components:

  1. Telephone helpline for school administrators and teachers to use for urgent questions about improving school ventilation.
  2. Dedicated support team of experts who can visit schools to address immediate short-term ventilation problems and assist them with developing long-term plans for improving ventilation.
  3. Every classroom provided with a carbon dioxide monitor so teachers and staff can have a sense of when they should be opening windows. The national government funded these devices and schools that already purchased them could seek reimbursement.

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Anthony LaMesa

Some thoughts on reopening America’s public schools.