FUSS has donated 5,800 masks in RISD, and their effort continues.

Volunteers with Richardson ISD Families United for Student Safety (FUSS) have distributed 5,800 high-filtration masks to district schools – and they say they’re just getting started. Their early focus has been campuses with more COVID cases and fewer parent resources, but their goal is to ensure that every student has access to a high-quality mask.

FUSS began as a statewide, grassroots movement by an epidemiologist and a parent, and the local chapter was created to support RISD officials following recommendations by health experts during the pandemic. In addition to sharing information with parents and school officials, the group raises funds and requests donations of N95, KN95, KF94 and other high-filtration masks. They also encourage schools to host – and volunteers to assist with – outdoor lunch on campus, since al fresco dining is safest for children laughing, talking and eating in close proximity with no mask.

Melinda Edwards worked as a healthcare provider before opting to stay home with her children. She joined FUSS at the urging of Katelyn Jetelina, a PhD-level epidemiologist with a master’s in public health who writes a blog in layman’s terms as “Your Local Epidemiologist.”

“The handling of this pandemic and the politicization of public health measures has been incredibly frustrating, and I needed to help keep things on track in our community,” says Edwards. “Our group provided the district with scientific data that supported continuation of mitigation strategies such as masking, improved ventilation, and outdoor lunches. We also assisted in finding resources to make these measures possible by providing volunteers and donations from our parent-run group.”

RISD mandated masks for students, teachers, staff and campus visitors when the school year began, but masks became “strongly encouraged” but not required at the end of the first semester. The district imposed a 3-week mask mandate during the recent Omicron spike, but that expired Friday.

FUSS member and RISD parent Blair Taylor organized an Amazon wish list, and many of her friends and neighbors donated to the cause. She says waiting around for others to “fix” the problem of student safety will cause children – and educators – to suffer.

“This is a pandemic, a public health crisis that has impacted the globe,” says Taylor. “If one person wearing a mask or getting a vaccine made it all better, we could rely on individual action, but that is not how a pandemic works. There is a need for collective effort to reach collective protection.”

If you are interested in donating masks, you may give them directly to the campus of your choice or to the district for distribution. If donated to RISD, masks will be distributed based on requests from campus principals. Large donations will be accepted at the RISD warehouse at 1123 S. Greenville, where Cedric Young (cedric.young@risd.org) is the warehouse manager. Monetary donations may be made to the RISD Foundation here and to the Outdoor Lunch Program here.