We were concerned when we first heard that the statewide mask mandate in schools had been blocked, temporarily halting its enforcement in schools. However, we didn’t even have to wait five minutes into the day that morning before our principal came on the announcements and told us the state of 88 – only one positive covid case existed within all of the District.
Mask mandates are now gone for the state of Illinois – students and staff alike no longer are subject to any form of a mandate. Everyone is given an option to wear a mask as they see fit. We think this is the right decision from the state.
With omicron already having run its course and numbers down throughout the state, mask mandates are no longer within reason. The daily average of cases is down below 2,000 and deaths have dropped below 60. With individual districts, including our own, being able to boast few to no cases, the mandate is proving unnecessary.
In addition, the option presented takes us towards an important step in returning to normalcy and respecting others.
While we do not believe that masks are ineffective, we do recognize that human beings are not designed to wear them for their entire lives. Smiles and other facial expressions, the ability to read lips, and genuinity of seeing other people face to face, rather than mask to mask, are things that society has forgotten it needs during a time when public health was a bigger concern.
Now that public health is in less jeopardy, it’s time that we are reminded how important these things are. The removal of the mask mandate is the perfect way to do this, because many people still choose to wear masks. This way, the return to normalcy will be phased in slowly, diminishing the amount of panic a sudden transition from all masks to no masks could cause.
We have seen most AT students and staff remain masked. Many more have chosen to wear masks at certain times of the day.
No one is forced to return to normal before they are ready this way.
In fact, we’ve seen many people come to this decision on their own already.
Many students who remained masked at the beginning of the mandate’s removal have now stopped wearing masks, and many people who said that they were scared or angry at the beginning have changed their opinions and now support mask optional policies.
As AT phases in, everyone now has the option to do what makes them most comfortable, and because distancing guidelines still remain in place in most classroom settings, students are never forced to be close to others when they are not comfortable with it. Many teachers have even offered further support, offering students the opportunity to talk to them about any concerns they have or support they need.
Ultimately, the science doesn’t wield enough concern to keep requirements in place. With numbers extremely low and our ability to make smart decisions and maintain some precautions high, there is no reason that masks should be mandated at this time of people who choose not to wear them downgraded in any way.
It is time to transition to a mixed society