The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is leading a research study to learn more about ways to support or enhance the safety and well-being of students and faculty, and to better understand the impact of a modified environment and health and safety measures on potential infectious risks.
This research aims to understand what factors need to be considered when implementing mandatory mask use in children and adolescents; specifically, whether the use of masks could potentially lead to behaviours that have been associated with increased risk of infection. We will observe other preventative behaviours (physical distancing and hand hygiene practices) and ask teachers and students to complete questionnaires about various health and safety measures.
This will be a study simulating return to school for two full days prior to the start of the school year in September. Volunteer students and teachers from elementary and high schools will be recruited to participate in the study on August 19 and August 20 in Toronto.
Students will be assigned to one of two appropriate classes based on the grade they just completed:
- students assigned to wear masks will be placed in one class;
- the other class will be for students who will not be wearing masks (Grades 4 and lower) or wearing masks only when physical distancing cannot be maintained (Grade 5 and up).
Classes will be filmed without audio via a secure setup so that the research team can review these videos and collect data on behaviours and mask-use practices. These videos will not be used for any other reason and will not be shared with anyone outside of the study team. All videos will be destroyed once the data has been collected and verified. Teachers will also trial personal protective equipment to compare the use of masks to face shields.
A harmless liquid that lights up when exposed to a special light will be applied to the hands and noses of a small group students in each class to see how this liquid moves around the classroom. This is meant to simulate the spread of infection. Cameras will be used to document how the liquid moves throughout the classroom and among the teacher and other students.