What do MHS Students Think About Albany’s Universal Mask Mandate?


Photo Courtesy Creative Commons

A mask and school supplies represent the reality of the 2021-2022 school year.

Nadia Suben, Editorial Director

In late August, Mamaroneck Union Free School District’s superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps released district COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming school year. Among these guidelines came the news that, in compliance with NYSDOH guidelines, masks would continue to be required inside all school building. Though Americans are divided on mask mandates in schools overall—an August Gallup poll found that 48% of parents want all students masked in school, whereas 41% believe that no students should wear masks in school—Globe staff members overwhelmingly agree with the MUFSD’s universal masking policy.

Despite Mamaroneck schools’ high vaccination rates among vaccine-eligible students and staff members, many students continue to fear for their health and the health of their families amidst the ongoing pandemic. The recently emerged Delta variant, which now accounts for nearly every COVID-19 case in the United States, has proven far more transmissible and potentially dangerous than previous virus strains. Currently available vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness, but an increased chance of contracting the virus has made even vaccinated people anxious about stripping back restrictions too quickly. 

Several Globe staff members pointed out the fact that most diseases can only be eradicated through mass vaccination on a scale that vaccination against COVID-19 is presently nowhere close to. Until further immunization against this virus is achieved, these students argued, walking about school buildings without the protection of masks could put all students and school staff at significantly increased risk of infection and could endanger unvaccinated members of the school community and their families. In spite of massive strides forward in COVID-19 vaccination in the past few months, most Globe staff members felt that continuing to wear face coverings in school buildings was a small sacrifice to make to stay healthy and reduce cases.

However, Globe members’ near-unanimous agreement with NYSOH’s current masking policy did not translate to when masks should be removed. Some students felt that the current mask requirement is so little of a burden that there would be no issue with continuing to wear masks in school indefinitely. Others pointed to the adverse social impacts of COVID-19 restrictions and the fact that the virus is continuously mutating, so it will simply be necessary for Mamaroneck students and school faculty to accept some minute degree of risk of catching COVID-19 in exchange for a more “normal” school experience. The relatively slim chance of getting sick could be frightening, these students acknowledged, but the world cannot be kept on hold forever.

This issue holds a particular significance as a number of parents spoke out against the district’s universal mask mandate at the Board of Education meeting on September 14. After loudly interrupting the BOE meeting a number of times, six parents and community members expressed a range of concerns regarding masks during the public comment portion. These concerns included the effectiveness of masks, whether COVID-19 remains a threat, the harmful ramifications of outdoor masking at elementary schools, and the inadequate health curriculum taught in the district, which they claimed would be a more effective way to combat COVID-19 than masks. 

 Globe members who attended this meeting believe that the concerns of these community members are entirely baseless considering the plethora of scientific data, as well as the district’s successful COVID-19 track record, to suggest that wearing masks indoors is one of the most effective strategies to combat the disease. Additionally, Globe staff members feel that parents’ assertions that COVID-19 only impacts those who are weak, unfit, elderly, or at risk due to health conditions are scientifically incorrect, as well as extremely callous, irresponsible, and unempathetic. Finally, accusations that the district’s mask policy was an effort to “hide behind the children,” protect the adult administration, and create an “oppressive regime” are unjustified and unfounded. 

Most students at MHS have now had the majority of their high school experience impacted by the pandemic. The prospect of a third consecutive year of school altered by this global crisis may not be exciting, but the ability to safely attend school in person even in the midst of chaos is an extraordinary blessing. Though uncertainty lies ahead, the Globe staff takes comfort in the knowledge that the MUFSD is prioritizing safety in their protocols as a new school year begins.