Student opinions split over mask mandate


Taslima Chapagai

While many students were hopeful early in the summer that masks would not be required at the start of this school year, rising Covid trends have led to mandates in schools.

Purbalite Staff

While many students were hopeful early in the summer that masks would not be required at the start of this school year, rising Covid trends have led to mandates in schools. 

In August, with cases rising in the county and state, the district decided to mandate masks. Since then, Gov. Tom Wolf has mandated mask usage throughout all Pennsylvania schools. Students, like many adults in the communities, are divided on the issue, but Supt. Dr. Randal Lutz said the mandate follows the recommendation of health officials. 

“If we had students masked, they could be as close as three feet and if we have positive cases, which we fully expect to have, masks and three feet would allow children to continue in class and not be quarantined,” Lutz said. 

Lutz said he appreciates the statewide mask mandate, but he believes the governor issued it too late. 

“Districts and communities were tearing each other apart. People who we would stand together at a Friday night football game, side by side, cheering on our football team are the same people who are at each other’s throats,” Lutz said. 

Because of the late state mandate, Lutz said his biggest concern is uniting the community once more. 

Lutz said he hopes the state’s mask mandate will not last all year. If the state mandate is lifted and Allegheny County drops to the moderate level in Covid statistics, the district can once again consider making masks optional. 

“I hope that at the very earliest moment we can take masks back off, because at all grade levels — but especially the elementary grade levels — masks really cause problems because of how we learn to read, how to speak, how to communicate, all those things that are verbal and non-verbal. So we need those masks to be off. But I also need kids to be at school, and that’s where we are now. Masks allow us to be at school,” Lutz said. 

Some students oppose the current mask mandate. 

Junior Gabby Bagay does not like wearing masks in school, and believes that she should be able to make up her own mind. 

“I’m my own person. I should be able to have my own opinion,” Bagay said. 

She said she believes that anyone who feels more safe wearing a mask should be able to, but that wearing a mask should not be mandatory. 

Senior Kayli Woods agrees. 

“They are annoying,” Woods said of masks. “It is a struggle to get them to stay up on my face, causing distractions in school.”

Junior Dylan Weber is also against the mask mandate. 

“It’s my choice. The government is overstepping by controlling my health,” Weber said.

He said there were some days that schools in the district had to shut down last year with masks mandated, and the same could happen again.

Junior Brady Zofcin said having a mask mandate in schools does not take into account that students socialize after school.

“I guess it helps, but we see each other out of school,” Zofcin said. 

Other students, though, said they supported the mask mandate.

“I think the masks are a good thing because they help prevent the spread of the virus,” sophomore Dilisha Neopaney said.

Senior Julia Balaschak agreed.

“Masks are worth it if they keep us safe,” she said.

Though wearing a mask can be uncomfortable, Balaschak said she continues to incorporate her mask into her fashion choices.

Sophomore Kenzie Hirt said that while she doesn’t like wearing a mask, she supports the mandate.

“I would prefer not to, but if it ensures the safety of students, I think it’s a good option for now,” Hirt said.

She also said she would rather wear a mask and be in school than have to learn from home again.

“Being in person is very different from online learning. I want to make sure we can stay in school for as long as we can,” Hirt said.

Junior Kay Lindenfelser agreed.

“I don’t like wearing them, but if it gets us to all be in school and keep everyone safe, then I will wear it,” Lindenfelser said.

Sophomore Sharika Neopaney says that because masks are lowering her chance of getting Covid, she is willingly complying with the mandate. 

“For me, even if it was optional, I would still choose to wear it,” she said.