Teachers and students “unmask” their opinions on mandate removal

Emma Halman, Co-editor

Seventy-six percent of teachers that responded to a recent survey conducted by The Page are in favor of keeping the mask mandate in K-12 public schools throughout Virginia in effect. This group consists of 118 teachers out of the total 155 respondents. 

This school-wide discussion has been prompted by governor Glenn Youngkin’s recent decision to overturn the mask mandate, going into effect next Monday, Jan. 24. The Virginia Beach school board is deciding whether or not our school system will implement the measure at their upcoming meeting on Thursday. 

One anonymous teacher commented that they fear “removing this safety mitigation will only increase the spread and increase the absences that have been growing over the past few weeks.”

This opinion reflects the larger trend of anonymous comments from teachers expressing their concerns with the mask mandate being lifted, with the current shortage of substitutes throughout the school system. 

With students already being crowded in classrooms, another anonymous teacher believes that “teachers will need to be given the option of virtual versus face-to-face,” if masks are no longer required in schools. 

Like the majority of the teachers, 72.1 percent of student respondents are in favor of keeping the mask mandate, largely for reasons that concern protecting the health and safety of themselves and others. 

One anonymous student feels “unsafe that the mask mandate is going away,” on account of them having family members that are immunocompromised. This opinion is reiterated by another anonymous student who believes everyone should be wearing masks, “especially during flu season and due to the fact that Covid cases have spiked to where the number of cases are similar to peak Covid back in 2020.”

Mandate aside, another anonymous student is simply “surprised we are not going back to hybrid or virtual learning with this huge increase in numbers.”

This comment is further expressed by an anonymous teacher’s comment that states: “It is hard to believe that during the most infectious wave of this pandemic we are even considering lifting a mask mandate.”

However, there are also teachers and students who believe that parents/students should be given the choice to wear masks to school or not. 

One anonymous teacher believes that “Masks are not effective in preventing the transmission of the virus. Especially when staff/students are constantly pulling/readjusting ill-fitting masks.”

Another anonymous student describes “the whole mask thing” as “pretty murky,” explaining that they are “beginning to doubt the effectiveness, or usefulness of the masks, especially with the vaccines.”

This comment aligns with a fairly common opinion of teachers and students who did not respond in favor of keeping the mask mandate, that those who are vaccinated should be given the choice. 

Still, the majority of teacher and student respondents are assured in their opinion that the current state of the virus, both nationally and within Virginia, is reason enough for this option to not be currently implemented. 

As an anonymous teacher explains, “Rights are interesting things. One person’s right to choose impacts another person’s right to provide what they feel is a healthy and safe environment for their child.”

*Staff writer Delaney Brenner contributed to the formation of this story.