After the burden of the coronavirus pandemic spread rapidly around the United States in the Spring of 2020, new mask mandates were implemented, and have not yet been reversed. For an entire year, the majority of the population of students in the United States had to take part in distance learning and had to find a way to adapt to the never before experienced learning environment. Now, schools are attempting to have in-person learning again, but with several alterations to the mask policies. The main aspect of the mandate that has been changed is the requirement of wearing masks indoors. The County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health “reaffirms indoor masking requirement for everyone at K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status,” resulting in a non-negotiable requirement for every person to be masked indoors with little exception. The CDC “recommends” that schools create rules on wearing masks outside, social distancing, and when eating or drinking, but none of those recommendations have been enforced on Mayfair’s campus.
From teachers’ perspectives, mask mandates may be the only way they can keep teaching in-person and connect with students again. 8th Grade History and Senior AP Government teacher Mr. Caron reveals that the mask mandate at Mayfair has “effectively stopped the spread of the disease,” and mentions that when students and faculty have to wear masks, it reminds everyone that COVID-19 is still a problem that will not go away by ignoring its existence. Although there is the downside of difficulty communicating and conveying a sarcastic look on occasion, these factors outweigh the positives and potential opportunities that wearing masks bring to the table. The only criticism Mr. Caron explains in his belief that mask mandates in schools should have begun a long time ago, saying that if there were an implemented mask mandate at Mayfair when distance learning was in session, it could have sped up the process of going back to in-person learning once again. Mrs. Brown, the ceramics teacher at Mayfair, explains that the biggest benefit to having a mask mandate in school is that we are able to be physically present to learn. She emphasizes that there is a lot to be proud of when it comes to how Mayfair has handled the mask protocols, contact tracing, and, when compared to other areas in the country, we are doing “quite well.” After several issues with students not wearing a mask in class in the past, Mrs. Brown discloses that “it has taken a lot of discussions and reminders,” but such issues have been resolved.
The only direct requirement that is stated in the protocols is that you must wear a mask indoors, so when people do not want to partake in the group effort to keep everyone safe, it is ridiculous. For someone to not wear a piece of cloth when learning for the safety of the school population, is, to put it simply, disrespectful. I am thankful that the issue of students not wearing masks enough of the time has not been a serious problem, but still, it is the way it has to be, even if it may be inconvenient. It has been brought up several times that a few teachers on campus are not consistently wearing masks in a closed space for an elongated period of time, especially when they are fairly close to students. I understand that it is hard to teach with a mask, and if you may be properly distancing yourself while talking without a mask on for a short period of time that is excusable. However, if this behavior continues for the entire class period, that should be considered an issue because, as inconvenient as it is for a mask to be creating a blockade between students and their teacher, it does not give an excuse to keep it off the entire class period and risk the safety of others.
From students' perspectives, there is a variation in the level of inconvenience felt indoors and outdoors while wearing masks. High school Junior Milcah Ysalina states that “seeing Mayfair require masks for everyone makes me glad they care about our safety and less anxious to go to school during a pandemic,” and mentions that to ensure our safety, as well as preventing the spread of a potential huge outbreak of COVID-19 cases, the mandate should stay for as long as the virus is present. Although it may be difficult to distance yourself from people, especially in the halls during passing periods, wearing a mask significantly decreases the amount of exposure that would occur if no one was wearing a mask. High school Senior Eric Tapia reveals that his only critique to the existing mandate would be that some people don’t listen, and while you and majority of the people around you have your mask on, they do not, putting themselves and others at risk. Another high school Senior by the name of Aimee McSparren says that she “doesn't mind the mandate since it’s only indoors” and its downside is not being able to see and read everyone’s faces. McSparren points out that there may be a possible mask requirement at Homecoming which shouldn’t be required, in her opinion, due to the fact that it is outside and people will have a hard time fully enjoying themselves with a mask on. The mask mandate is “a lot better than it was previously” when sports were required to wear a mask constantly, resulting in the general requirement to not be minded.
Coming from a different perspective, high school Senior Estalin Sabillon reveals that he does not support the mandate generally, but since it is a private public property, he will abide by the mandate. Since there is a mask requirement, it “makes everything a lot harder and we are restricted on what we can and cannot do.” Personally, I respect the opinions of others no matter how far they differentiate from my own as long as it is not putting anyone else at risk of harm. It is extremely interesting to see how different people can feel about certain topics, especially one as controversial as mask mandates in schools. Masks have been scientifically proven to decrease the exposure that people get to germs when masks are on, as compared to when they are off, which makes me believe that wearing a mask at all times on Mayfair’s campus is important. It is extremely anxiety-inducing to walk through certain halls during passing periods or certain areas during lunch and snack due to the amount of people that you are in very close proximity with. Personally, I don’t think it makes much sense that you must wear masks indoors regardless of distance, and yet, you can also be surrounded by hundreds of people outside without being required to wear masks. The contact tracing at Mayfair is effective, but they don’t know who else has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 while walking down the halls or eating outside of class.
If the CDC recommends that social distancing and masks should be enforced to wear outside but not required, then why are we not partaking in those measures? Several students get sent home to quarantine because of exposure on a daily basis. I know the district is doing a lot to limit the spread, but I don’t think they are doing enough. COVID-19 is real, dangerous, scary, and has taken so much from almost everyone’s life for the past year and a half, and that alone would make me think that more people would be considerate of wearing a thin piece of cloth over their face when around others. I am grateful that masks are enforced indoors at the very least, and it helps slow the spread and limit the amount of people exposed, however, there are a lot of faults present in the mandate that I don’t see as enough to stop putting everyone in immediate danger.