- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - When the marching band from Fort Myers High school took the field at halftime Thursday night, the students modeled a specially made face mask that is built with health, safety and functionality in mind.

The cloth mask features an opening around the mouth, allowing musicians to play instruments like saxophones and trumpets, without ever removing the mask from their face. When done playing, the flap is closed, revealing “a fully functional face mask,” reports Rob Spicker, a spokesperson for the Lee County School District.

Band students in the district’s 49 middle and 15 high school band programs are being provided these type of musician-friendly face masks. The district bought 3,300 masks, which tallied up to over $16,750.

The school system contributed more than $6,000 of the cost, while the Cape Coral Elks Lodge 2596 donated $5,500 to the cause and Suncoast Credit Union, through the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, donated $5,250.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school district has mandated that all students and employees wear masks while on campus or riding a school bus.

The Lee County school district is providing face masks made for musicians in mind to students in its 49 middle and 15 high school band programs. Marching band students from Fort Myers High School wore them during the halftime performance Thursday.

However, there are “mask breaks” factored into the school day, like when eating, drinking or engaging in an activity outside when physical distances can be kept.

The special masks for band students are still being distributed to all the schools, but some marching bands debuted their new safety gear at Thursday and Friday night football games.

Bands are still limited to 50 members and do not travel to away games, the district’s website states. When not performing on the field during halftime, the musicians are spaced out behind an end zone.

Recently, South Fort Myers High School’s marching band showed off the new masks for the people who donated to the cause.

Band director Staci Hatmaker said the school is “greatly appreciative of the generous donation” from the community groups.

“We all want to keep the safety of our arts students a priority in the district of Lee County,” she is quoted as saying in a news release from the district. “Thank you for making this happen.”

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