Parents will have to add masks to their school-supply lists as they search stores for everything from loose-leaf paper to pink Duo-Tangs.
But there are no guidelines in place to help parents figure out the number of masks they need or the type of masks required for their children.
According to the document put out by New Brunswick's Department of Education, Return to School: Guide for Parents and the Public, all students and school staff are expected to bring a clean mask to school every day.
Children from grades 6 to 12 will be required to wear masks in public spaces, between classes and on school buses.
For younger students, the masks will not be required but encouraged. Individual schools may also implement special guidelines for mask use.
Looking for answers
Exceptions will be made for students and staff with underlying medical issues but will require documentation from health-care professionals.
But the plan leaves Cathy Jensen of Riverview with more questions than answers when it comes to masks.
She has five children returning to school this September. They will be going into grades 2, 4, 6, 9 and 11.
Although the plan says students will have to bring a clean mask to school every day, Jensen says one mask per day is not realistic because children are bound to touch the material while wearing them, which makes the mask ineffective.
"I know my younger kids. They're going to be touching them," she says. "Every time they take their mask off they're not supposed to touch the cloth part, but they do."
Jensen says she is trying to figure out how many masks to buy for her family because she knows they are going to make mistakes or drop them on the floor accidentally.
Many question for many situations
She says her children are already starting to ask her about how to handle different situations.
"What if I go to the bathroom and it falls off? Do I tell my teacher and am I going to get into trouble?"
Jensen says she is preparing her children the best she can, but the uncertainty about masks in school and how it will be monitored by teachers is especially upsetting for her youngest daughter.
"She woke up this morning in tears and doesn't want to go to school. That's not like her."
Jensen says it is also a question of cost for her family. Both she and her husband are on reduced salaries because of Covid-19.
"It is a little stressful right now", she says.
Preparing the best they can
Jill Tippett is doing what she can to prepare her daughters for mandatory masks at school this fall.
The Moncton mother has three children going into grades 2, 7 and 10. Her children have been wearing masks at camps and other activities this summer. Although she says they are used to wearing masks, that does not mean they are fully prepared to handle and store them properly at school.
Tippett says her family watched a video together because she was unsure of all the logistics of how to wear a mask.
She is taking advantage of as many teachable moments together as possible.
"If we have to go to a store together, we do a little prep time in the car."
Tippett has purchased special bags with multiple pockets so her children will have a way to keep clean masks separate from dirty masks during the day at school.
Gregg Ingersoll, the superintendent of the Anglophone East School District, says teachers and staff will be teaching children the proper etiquette around masks at the beginning of the school year.
Students will be shown the proper way to put on and take off masks as well as the importance of washing hands before and after each time. Ingersoll says they will also teach the students how to store their masks when they are not wearing them during class time.
"We are not going to assume that students are going to come to school having been taught all that. We're going to start with every student and work with them on all those things."
Ingersoll says each school will have its own operational plan for this fall. Principals will be going over those plans with teachers and staff when they return to work on Aug. 31.
The plans will cover everything from monitoring students to ensure they are wearing masks when required to social distancing when students are coming and going from classes.
"You know if you've ever been in a school when the bell rings and the kids come out it's not as easy. It is a lot of kids moving around," he says. "So you have to have a pretty solid plan."
Ingersoll says everyone will have the responsibility to make sure those plans work — including students.
Arriving at school without a mask is not an option, according to Ingersoll. He says schools and buses will have some disposable masks on hand for children who forget or lose their masks.
"But we remind them, 'the next day you have to have a mask.'"
Ingersoll says wearing masks when required at school will be enforced just like all other school rules. If a student refuses to wear a mask, they will get a warning the first time. A second time might see them at the principal's office.
]"And that's just the way it is. If someone doesn't want to comply with that, then they'll have to work out another plan for that student."
Ingersoll adds that staff and students must follow the measures that have been set by both the Department of Education and the chief medical officer of health.
"We're doing it for everyone's safety."