Images provided by Theresa Chiechi/Verywell and author.
On Friday, March 11, at the top of the district newsletter, it was announced that “As of March 12, FUSD will shift from requiring masks to strongly recommending masks inside FUSD facilities. Outdoor masking is optional.” The reaction of the student body to this decision has been varied. Many are excited to finally be able to do whatever they want, not having to worry about masks, and many are anxious that the decision is too rash, that we are still in a time of crisis and our freedom is not worth what this decision will cost.
Are WHS students going to continue wearing masks?
The Hatchet reached out to WHS students and staff and collected 447 responses. The good news is that 94% of respondents indicated that they were vaccinated. However, views on masking were mixed. One student said, “Good job putting more people at risk when the pandemic is still going on.” Others worried about a possible new variant: “The purpose of the mask is not just to protect yourself, but also the people around you…Unfortunately, the possibility of another variant emerging is not unfathomable.” On the other side, one student shared, “I won’t wear it even if someone asks me to. I feel safe. If they don’t, that’s their thing.” A concern was raised about how this may lead to ridicule: “I have a feeling that I will still be judged for not wearing a mask even though it is now not mandatory.”
How concerned are WHS students about the new mask policy?
A Washington High Senior, Reyna Jung, expressed her observations: “having spoken to some of my teachers they all seem like wearing masks till the end of school is a smart idea,” she said. “I felt a social pressure to continue wearing mine.” Because very few people have taken off their masks, she hypothesized it was because there was no motivation, as it has been a whole school year, and most people are used to it, even comforted by having one on. Looking to the future, Reyna predicts in 2-3 weeks people will start to get comfortable not wearing masks. To many people, like Reyna, the decision seemed to have ulterior motives: “The decision was made due to political pressures,” said one student. Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, shares a different perspective: “The decision was made just simply because there are very low COVID cases…we are in a fairly safe state in terms of COVID.” Choosing to not wear a mask, he was surprised that he has not received negative attention, despite how few people are not wearing masks. He expressed pessimism about the future: “I believe that we are going to see people masked for many years to come at Washington. There is far too much fear going around.”
“I won’t wear it even if someone asks me to. I feel safe. If they don’t, that’s their thing.”
One problem that has been raised is whether a teacher is allowed to mandate masks in their classroom. When asked, Principal Bob Moran was clear: “No.” It has been reported to The Hatchet that a teacher, who will not be named, has a plan to reward students for wearing masks. When we reached out for a comment, we received no response. As the weeks without masks go by, people on all sides are looking forward to seeing what will happen.
Venya Karpelevitch is a junior at Washington High School. He has lived and grown up in Fremont, California. This is his first year at The Hatchet. His journalistic interests are politics and Jewish issues. His hobbies include video games, biking, and debate. He plans on pursuing chemistry in college, as well as learning at a yeshiva.