maskSAFE Interviews Melissa Bilash of The Grayson School
We had the pleasure this week of speaking with Melissa Bilash, the Founder and Head of School for The Grayson School, located in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Their mission is to “…provide gifted children a challenging, research-based education worthy of their intellect and their intrinsic desire to learn and think deeply. We serve as a valued resource for the gifted education community in Philadelphia and nationwide.”
We’re committed to improving mask safety for every member of your family, so it was incredibly enlightening to talk about maskSAFE with an expert like Melissa, who has received Congressional recognition for her work in the education field.
maskSAFE: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of The Grayson School and your role there.
Melissa Bilash: I had an educational consulting practice, based in Radnor, Pennsylvania, with consulting clients in about sixteen different states – regular education, gifted education, and special education. No matter where I went, I saw that gifted students’ needs were not being met.
Along with a team of incredibly dedicated volunteers—mostly women—who shared my vision, we worked tirelessly with researchers from the top universities in the world to create a research-based program with interdisciplinary rigor and complexity well beyond what a typical school can offer.
In September of 2015 we opened the only school for gifted students in the state of Pennsylvania, and today we have 134 students in grades Pre-K through 12.
maskSAFE: What has the process been like incorporating face masks and implementing safety protocols at your school and for school activities?
MB: There is an appropriately aggressive set of safety requirements set forth by the State. Ours is 50 pages long with policies around cleaning, social distancing, and masking. Around July 16th, the mask order changed into a more conservative and safer set of regulations. Then, again, right before school opened, it went into an even more restricted space.
Our mask rules were more aggressive than the state needed them to be, and then right before school started, our Governor updated the mandate that matched our plan. So, the rule right now is all-day masks in school and at recess, and at any point a student may ask for a mask break.
There are guidelines on how to allow a mask break – broadly it looks like this:
- Apply hand sanitizer
- Take the mask off, removed by the ear loop
- Then you are to put the mask somewhere (a disposable bag until our order arrives)
- The teacher sets a ten-minute timer
- And then the mask break is over
- You place your mask back (from wherever it was you were holding it) on by the ear loop
- And finally, you re-apply hand sanitizer
Hence maskSAFE is addressing an actual need. We’ve ordered them for everybody at school, for faculty and students. It’s a bit genius what’s been created, and I’m anxiously awaiting my delivery.
maskSAFE: Do you see the students and parents benefiting most from maskSAFE, or the educators? How is this hitting on the needs for the different sectors in the school?
MB: I think that, without exaggeration, it’s a universal need. I think that the teachers and students in the building need to be able to have a mask break. And they need to be able to have a set place to put it that’s marked, especially for the students to be able to have it marked with your name on it. That’s ideal. Because then we don’t have to run a risk of masks on the ground or someone putting on a mask that was not theirs. The notion of a mask on the floor, even outside, is very concerning. Who picks it up? And who or what has touched it in between?
maskSAFE: Is this something that you feel would be useful in other schools?
MB: I think that every school should have a plan for how the students are safely participating in mask breaks. I don’t think that masking is going away any time soon, and I’m thankful that we’re going to have something to help solve this problem.
We are so grateful to Melissa for sharing her time and her thoughts with us. We agree that there is a universal need for a mask case that can elegantly protect your face covering when it isn’t in use. You can find the right style and size in our online collection. Sustainable, stylish, and easy-to-clean, maskSAFE is a brand you can trust!
-the maskSAFE Family