Sunday, Apr 21st

Students Have Their Say on Scrapping the Masks

InstrumentsWith recent court rulings casting doubt on how much longer masks will be required in schools, everyone is wondering what the future holds for learning in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students have divergent views. Some advocate for continuing the mask mandate, saying, “We need to stay protected,” while others are comfortable if protective measures are no longer in place.

As detailed in an email from Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Thomas Hagerman this week, a New York State Supreme Court Justice in Nassau County ruled that the Commissioner of Health’s mask mandate in schools was unconstitutional. The NYS Attorney General subsequently filed a Notice of Appeal which triggered an automatic stay of the lower court’s ruling pending a further decision by the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department. Thus, for now, the mask mandate for schools is in place.

We asked a few students how they felt about masks. In the event of an uplifting of the mask mandate, Scarsdale High School upperclassmen #1 (who elected to remain anonymous) said, “I would feel just as comfortable if the mask mandate was lifted [as compared to now].” Scarsdale High School upperclassmen #2 (who also opted to remain anonymous) had a staunchly differing view, claiming, “I would not feel comfortable if the mask mandate was lifted because I have a high-risk family.”

Both agree that the mask requirements have affected their learning experiences, with #1 stating, “Wearing masks has negatively affected my learning experience by making communication with teachers more difficult.” #2 concurred, “Masks have made it difficult to communicate with teachers and classmates.”

When asked about whether the school has done a sufficient job at balancing COVID-19 protection and in-person learning to the best extent possible, they also had similar responses. #1 said, “The only correct balance is all in-person learning.” #2 added, “This year, strictly doing in-person has benefitted learning, but hybrid last year made teachers’ jobs harder and students more confused and stressed.”

Whether school should be all in-person or hybrid is still debated, though the consensus seems to be for in-person school. However, there is less agreement on the extent to which the school should enforce indoor protections against COVID-19. Some believe legislation signals the optimal time to remove masks from everyday life, whereas many others are patiently waiting for the infection rates to drop.

Some school districts have already had their first experience without mandated masks in the days the rule was being argued in court.

At Eastchester High School, many teachers and students scrapped their masks at the first instance possible. Eastchester student Ines Constantin described the day in detail -- information Scarsdale students and teachers may want to weigh before making their own decisions about mask-wearing when the mandate is lifted. Constantin said, “When I walked into school and saw so many people without masks, I was more shocked by the abundance of silence towards it. This didn’t feel like a step forward and getting ‘back to normalcy.’ It felt chaotic and threatening, seeing so many people unbothered by the number of cases and deaths, without an ounce of respect for others, simply because they didn’t feel like putting on an extra piece of fabric - a piece of fabric that has the power to save lives.”

The range of student opinion in both the county and town varies heavily, but, in my view, people should consider the science before making decisions made by legislators rather than doctors.

Leave a Comment

Share on Myspace