Back to School Without Masks — OPINION

Despite the pandemic, masks are not mandated at AHS for the 2020-2021 school year.

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Da'Jai Wesson

Some students choose not to wear a mask, even during passing periods. This year, face masks at AHS were "strongly encouraged," but not mandated.

Da'Jai Wesson, Editor

Returning to school after our extended break, I’ve been feeling a lot of emotions. I’m thankful to be back for at least the beginning of my senior year, but uncertain about how long we’ll actually be in school. Most of all, I’m frustrated and concerned because our school district decided not to mandate masks in the middle of a pandemic. 

Since schools were shut down across America last March, I’ve been looking to the health experts for safety information (CDC and World Health Organization). Since the beginning, they’ve been reinforcing the basic methods like washing hands and social distancing. Not too long into quarantine, the CDC recommended using face masks in public settings. To me, this seems like an obvious and simple method to keep kids in school safer and longer. 

A face mask creates a barrier for respiratory droplets that are released when talking, coughing, or sneezing. Masks prevent the droplets from spreading as far as they would without one. 

The main argument by most people seems to be something along the lines of “it doesn’t protect the person wearing the mask, just the people around them.” I struggle to understand why protecting the people around you isn’t a good enough reason to wear one. (This excludes those who are told by their doctors they shouldn’t wear one). 

Students who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic that go to school without a mask are putting others at risk. So–yes, everyone has a right to choose not to wear a mask at school. But they’re taking away the safety of others by doing so.  

While a number of students are wearing masks in the hallway, most of the time, they come off in the classroom–even when the desks are not six feet apart. I think this is from a combination of unspoken peer pressure and a false sense of security produced by classmates who take them off. 

I wish I could say that I was not guilty of this, but on the first day, I had already fallen victim to the pressure. I started to think, “what’s the point” if nobody else was wearing one. I began to feel silently judged by those around me. Talking with my friends and classmates, many get this same feeling. I don’t know how this could come as a surprise to anybody in or out of school, as peer pressure is common among high school students. I think the only way to avoid this would be mandating masks. 

 By the second day of school, I had to take a step back and reevaluate what aligned with my morals. Since then, I’ve been wearing my mask throughout the entire school day. 

This year is strange for all of us, and I know everyone just wants things to go back to normal. I would love to have a traditional senior year, but I’m bracing myself for the reality that it probably won’t happen under the current circumstances–especially if we continue the way we’re handling things. I know that we’ve never had to deal with a pandemic before, but from my understanding, I feel our school isn’t taking all the safety precautions possible.