Schools adapts to new mask policy

From restaurants to public schools to airlines now, masks are becoming optional. There were feelings of excitement and unease throughout all of Fairfax County Public Schools as new regulations were put out. Masks, which had been required since the first day of school, became a choice. An email went out to teachers requesting them not to discuss the mask mandates with students for fear of starting turmoil because of the political stigma that masks have. 

Most of the administrators stopped wearing theirs the day the mandates came down. However, when the Jagwire reached out, they declined sharing any comments regarding the matter. 

Most students at the school were wearing masks with the exception of some. However, as the weeks went on, more students noticeably became more and more comfortable with taking theirs off. 

“It’s more protection and safety and COVID is still out there. Not everybody is vaccinated. It’s still possible that the virus could spread,” Kashaf Baig (12) said. “When I see cases going down a lot, that’s when I’m going to take my mask off, but it’s going to take some time.”

English teacher Rachel Olarinde, who made a decision to take hers off, has no negative or positive opinions about the mandates.

“I chose to take my mask off because that’s what I was comfortable with doing. If people choose to still wear their mask, I’m still in full support of that because they’re doing what’s best for them,” Ms. Olarinde said.

However, Wendy Huang (12) strongly believes that masks are crucial in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Even though masks are optional now, she believes they should be worn until COVID cases are steady and are not high risks to the population.

“It’s hard to transition into a maskless community just like that. It means we’re also an unprotected community,” she said. “Even though I’ve never had COVID, the possibility is still there. It will always still be there. The pandemic still exists, no matter how much we want to ignore it.”

Masks are a personal preference now, but there is still fear of judgment from both sides due to political stigma surrounding mandates and lack of them.
“Why is this topic so controversial?” Government and History teacher Kristen Jones said.

“This should be open discussion and people should be comfortable doing what’s best for them.” 

Ever since masks were required in 2020, people have been protesting against them and saying masks limit their freedom and breathing. Others have been refuting those people, saying masks serve as protection against the ongoing virus for everybody. The topic became a heated conversation. 

After two months of optional mask mandates, airlines, as of April 18th, chose to put down mask restrictions for the first time in two years. Although the CDC still recommends masks for indoor settings (such as the airport), the airplanes themselves will not have the requirements. Some of the community will be going without masks and some will be keeping theirs on. Airplanes will have a setting similar to schools with different people making different decisions. 

After Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin fulfilled his promise to get rid of mask mandates, FCPS filed a lawsuit against him, demanding that schools should be able to enforce mandates until permanent notice. After winning the lawsuit, FCPS decided that masks should still be mandatory for the most part to ensure the safety of students and staff. However, in April, students and teachers are adjusting to the no mask mandate and there is a silent agreement that people should feel safe regardless of their preference. 

“It shouldn’t be this awkward to talk about the mask mandates, but since there is so much controversy regarding this topic, it’s hard to address this issue,” Ms. Olarinde said.

In fear of judgment from others, people choose to wear masks while others choose not to. There is still backlash regardless of a person’s decision and both sides of the argument have become wary of each other. However, people have slowly been able to make personal decisions they are comfortable with. 

“Even though we are still in a neverending pandemic and the masks have become optional, people have the right to choose what they wear,” Huang said. “But they should be able to deal with the effects that may come with those choices, too. After all, everyone is healing differently and at different paces. Masks shouldn’t be a political debate.”