Reactions split as end of school mask mandate nears

States+and+school+districts+have+been+debating+mask+mandates+for+much+of+the+pandemic.

Grace Spozarski

States and school districts have been debating mask mandates for much of the pandemic.

The Purbalite Staff

On Feb. 22, Baldwin students will have the choice to attend school without wearing a mask for the first time in almost two years. 

District families received an email from Supt. Dr. Randal Lutz over the weekend saying that the district will make masks highly recommended but not required starting Feb. 22. 

Staff will still be required to wear masks at least until March 7. Masks will still be required on school buses until March 18 due to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s mandate.

“As we adjust our mitigation efforts to the pandemic, I think it is critical that we do so in a moderate, purposeful manner without changing too many variables too quickly. Each of these measures is a step in the direction of (new) normalcy,” Lutz said in the email.

Student reaction to the change was, predictably, mixed.

Sophomore Joelena Kail is thrilled about masks becoming optional starting Feb.22. 

“The biggest issue about the masks was the freedom of choice. The masks should have always been optional, so I am very happy they are lifting this mandate,” Kail said. 

Kail said she would have no problem with others continuing to wear the masks.

“I will not continue to wear a mask. However, if some students would like to, that’s their choice and very understandable,” Kail said. 

Masks are still required on the bus, but Kail thinks that is not needed. 

“I don’t think it’s necessary to be required to wear a mask on the bus considering we would no longer need to wear one in the building,” Kail said. 

I don’t get why we have to wear them on the bus if we don’t wear them in school. Free the faces.”

— Levi McCrea

Junior Levi McCrea said he was ecstatic that the mask mandate was being lifted. 

“I am happy. Masks are useless and in the way,” McCrea said. 

With that being said, however, he said he won’t care if the other students continue to wear their own. 

“I don’t really care what other people do. I just think they are scared,” McCrea said. 

The continuation of masks on school transportation is a factor that McCrea said he does not understand. 

“I don’t get why we have to wear them on the bus if we don’t wear them in school. Free the faces,” McCrea said. 

Junior Lilianna Popp said she’s happy about the mask mandate being lifted. 

“I think it comes down to freedom of choice. I want the ability to take it off during certain scenarios like gym class, because it’s a lot harder to breathe,” she said. 

While she does not plan on wearing her mask, she also said she does not have any problems with people choosing to wear one. 

“If people choose to wear one, I don’t have anything against that. I do think it’s good that masks are required in buses, though, since we are in such close proximity to others,” she said. 

Junior Nora Vickless said she is relieved about the mask mandate becoming optional. 

“It takes away my rights and it is difficult to talk and hear others with them on,” Vickless said.

Vickless will not continue to wear her mask, and she thinks they should have been optional the entire time.

“They cause a lot of issues and they do more harm than good,” Vickless said.

Although she does not care if anyone wears a mask or not, she feels tension between pro-maskers and anti-maskers.

People who wear masks are “not a problem, but I feel they bring judgment to those who do not wear them,” Vickless said.

Senior Trevor Belak is excited to see the mask mandate go. 

“I am happy that I can see my friends’ faces in school again,” Belak said. 

Belak will not wear a mask after the mandate is lifted, but he too has no problem with other students’ decisions. 

“I do not care if other people still wear masks. It’s their decision and I respect it. They can do as they please,” Belak said. 

Sophomore Bibeak Bhujel, meanwhile, is not upset that the mask mandate has come to an end, but will keep wearing his mask. 

“I don’t mind what other people do. I’m going to keep wearing mine so that people won’t see my face,” Bhujel said.

You can do whatever you want. I’m not going to judge you for not wearing your mask.”

— Olivia Seiler

Bhujel personally feels more safe when he wears a mask, but he understands that other people do not feel the same and will make different decisions. 

Bhujel also said he believes that the mask requirement on school buses is reasonable, as people are in close proximity and the masks will help to ensure everyone is protected.

Junior Olivia Seiler has mixed feelings about the mask mandate being lifted. 

“I’m kind of indifferent. You can do whatever you want. I’m not going to judge you for not wearing your mask,” Seiler said. 

Seiler plans to continue to wear her mask because she has immunocompromised family members. 

“Personally I am not super comfortable with not wearing a mask, but I can see why other people are ready to move forward,” Seiler said. 

Sophomore Yariel Morales-Sanchez said he did not mind the mask mandate, and will be choosing to keep his mask on after it is removed. 

But freedom of choice is an important thing for everyone and removing the mask mandate will make some students feel free, he said. 

“I think it’s good that students will be able to choose whether or not to keep theirs on,” Morales-Sanchez said. 

It is hard to maintain a six-foot distance on school buses so Morales-Sanchez encourages everyone to keep their masks up on the bus. 

“We as students have a responsibility to make our school a safe place for each other. We have to try and do everything possible to keep Covid cases on the low,” Morales-Sanchez said. 

Sophomore Abby Lease said there are positives and negatives to lifting the mask mandate.

“I think it’s easier to talk to people and answer questions without masks,” Lease said. On the other hand, “we don’t know who’s vaccinated so it can be a risk for getting sick.”

Lease said she does not plan on wearing a mask, but if she is not feeling well, she will carry one and wear it to protect others.

She also said she won’t care if other students choose to wear one.

“You don’t know the person’s situation. They could be high risk or live with someone high risk,” she said.

Junior Abigail Sullivan is hesitant about the mask mandate being lifted and believes it may lead to more conflict. 

“I’m concerned that the cases in our school will go up and we will have to return to online school,” Sullivan said. “I also have a couple of people in my family who have illnesses and I do not want to risk getting them sick.”

Sullivan believes that although wearing a mask may be inconvenient, it is a sacrifice that people should take in order to protect themselves and others. Sullivan said she will continue to wear her mask.

“I think wearing a mask is a small sacrifice to keep myself and everyone else in person instead of having to learn remotely,” Sullivan said. 

Sophomore Julianna Lang is wary of going completely maskless because the mandate has been in place for almost two years. 

“I’ve gotten used to wearing the mask. It’s the new normal,” Lang said. “The old normal might never be normal again.”

Lang said that she will continue to mask up for now. 

“I’m not exactly happy (about the end of the mandate), but I’m hopeful for the future,” Lang said. 

Senior Jenna Redding opposes the new optional mask rule because she said COVID-19 isn’t completely over yet and more people can get sick.

“We’re just going to get sick again and it’s just going to keep going on,” Redding said.

Redding said her 4-year-old brother would be susceptible to getting more sick if he gets COVID-19 since he is not old enough to get the Covid vaccine.

Even if people stop wearing their masks, Redding is going to continue to wear hers. 

Sophomore Sharika Neopaney also has mixed feelings about the mandate being lifted.

“I don’t mind it, but I will keep wearing (a mask) because it is more safe that way,” Neopaney said.

Neopaney fears that Covid cases may increase and that school activities will be canceled.

“I enjoy participating in school activities and socializing with others, but I would not be able to do that if the cases rise,” Neopaney explains.

Staff Writers Leila Usanovic, Ava Rickman, Asmita Pokharel, Taslima Chapagai, Eli Traud, Sneha Bhandari, Ava Bell, Khushila Dulal, Sara Scheeser, Ayushma Neopaney, Evelyn Esek, and Grace Spozarski contributed to this report.