Was Changing Our School’s Mask Mandate a Good Idea?


Elizabeth Carroll, Writer

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a journey for us all, with all of the sanitizing, online shopping, mask wearing, and toilet paper hunting for days. It has changed our lives in so many ways. However, the pandemic is still persisting, causing us to be uncertain of what is to come. The number of Covid-19 cases and deaths are beginning to spike again, making the masks more essential than ever. On December 1st, Westlake High School’s mask mandate was lifted. This means that the choice of wearing a mask during the school day is optional, but highly recommended. With the recent data provided to us by not only the CDC, but also the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, it makes me wonder: Was the recent change in Westlake High School’s mask mandate really a good idea?

First of all, the District says high school students are no longer required to wear a mask, but it is strongly recommended. How many people will listen to this “strong recommendation” though? During our lunches, the school is “still taking all necessary precautions to ensure our safety.” During lunches we are still required to have one seat between us at the lunch tables and maintain a 3 feet distance between each of us. In the classroom, we are to maintain this 3 foot distance as well. In the hallways during class changes, however, no one is maintaining a 3 foot distance, and it is like a can of sardines–packed too tightly– and sometimes difficult to get from one place to another without being run into. 

On the school website under “Safety and Security” in the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response” section, the very first sentence is, “The safety and well-being of our students and staff is a top priority for the Westlake City School District.”  The mask mandate was lifted right after Thanksgiving Break. Just one week before break, the District’s Covid-19 Dashboard numbers read: Students: 3 cases, 5 Exclusion/Isolation; Staff: 0 cases, 0 Exclusion/Isolation. However, the week we came back from break, the District’s Covid-19 Dashboard numbers read: Students: 13 cases, 19 Exclusion/Isolation; Staff: 1 case, 1 Exclusion/Isolation. The numbers for the students rose by 10 cases, and the numbers for the staff rose by 1. To make matters worse, the school changed its Covid exposure policy. If you were exposed before the mandate, you were required to quarantine for at least 10 days until you tested negative for Covid. However, the new policy states that if you were exposed, you can still come to school as long as you wear a mask.

In my opinion, I think that this is the worst time to lift the mandate. We are slowly entering the flu season, and our immune systems are becoming weaker. Winter is also approaching, which means that there will be no windows opened for ventilation and no classes held outside. 

According to the CDC’s website (as of December 5th), everyone in Cuyahoga County should wear a mask in both indoor and outdoor public settings. As of December 5th, there have been 6, 245 new Covid-19 cases, 15 deaths, and 540 new hospital admissions in Cuyahoga County. The community transmission level is currently the color red, which means that the transmission is high. The school claims that they are “remaining in close contact with local, state and federal health agencies on local health emergency procedures in our community to be proactive in decision-making.” However, if the school is really remaining in close contact with health agencies, then wouldn’t they see that the numbers are spiking again? The school also says under their Coronavirus Preparedness and Response page that they are “monitoring health warnings.” However, all of the health warnings state that it is highly recommended to wear a mask. According to the CDC’s guidance for Covid-19 Preparedness in K-12 School (last updated on November 5th), “Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status…” and “In addition to universal indoor masking, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms” (cdc.gov, 12/5/2021). If the CDC recommends universal indoor masking and the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths have been spiking, then why are we taking our masks off? 

The last thing that I think we all need to consider when thinking about the new mask policy is what happens when you get Covid-19. When an individual becomes infected with the Coronavirus, they are required to quarantine themselves for 10-14 days. During these 10-14 days, they are possibly missing school. The school plan of 2021-2022 for Westlake High School does not offer online classes through Google Meet anymore, as all of the lessons and classes are in-person. If the student gets Covid and quarantines for 10-14 days, this also means that they are missing their lessons and class material. Think of all the missed work they need to make-up, all of the lessons they need to learn either from their teacher or peers, along with the current work they need to complete. The workload would be enormous, overwhelming, and stressful. Before I end, I want you to ask yourself this question: Would you rather get Covid-19, miss 10-14 days of school, and be greeted with all of the overwhelming work upon your return, or just wear a mask instead?