Masks made optional in the high school

On November 1, the high school lifted its indoor mask mandate after the school committee voted on October 22, authorizing an optional mask-wearing trial for vaccinated staff and students.

Hopkinton is the first district in Massachusetts approved to go maskless. According to the recommendation Superintendent, Dr. Carol Cavanaugh presented to the school committee, the town’s vaccination rate exceeds 95%, which also exceeds the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s 80% vaccination threshold to lower the state mask mandate. The three-week trial started runs through November 22.

Before the mask mandate was lifted, students were asked to take a survey. Student representatives Jessica Ianelli and Ryan Darbhanga showed 68.4% of students voted yes for the optional mask mandate, while 28% of students voted no, with 4% of students either providing no answer or maybe. Since 95% of 12-15 and 16-19-year-olds are fully vaccinated, this makes up most of the high school population excluding teachers. With these statistics, the school committee approved the optional mask mandate.

Ms. Shire, the AP Environmental Science teacher, said, “I don’t have too strong an opinion on it [the mask-optional policy]. I have a lot of faith in the vaccine. I know a lot of teachers with younger kids that are against it until their kids can be vaccinated.”

Like many other teachers, Shire is concerned about the consequences of going maskless. At the beginning of the pandemic, she stayed home due to health concerns but returned as soon as she received the vaccine. To keep herself protected, she already received the booster shot.

High school students have a slightly different view on the topic.

“Families are so much more interconnected between the schools than the administration assumes to be.” senior Victoria Allen said.

Allen sympathizes with the teachers’ opinion on the topic, “It’s valid for teachers to be worried. They interact with so many more students than we do.”

Most of the student body respects a teacher’s wishes to wear a mask if going maskless negatively affects the teacher or their family.

“My English teacher is pregnant. Going maskless could affect her pregnancy.” another senior, Katie Lundy said.

Lundy also brought up more concerns about masks. “I think it a good idea to have a trial run, but I don’t think that people would want to put their mask back on.” When the trial ends Lundy is worried things will never go back to the full mask.

On November 1, Hopkinton’s first day of optional masks, the student body didn’t go completely maskless. Almost half the students in the school kept their masks on.

The teachers have been very thorough about checking to see if all forms have been submitted to prove vaccination. The lack of forms and the number of students who want to protect a family member or themselves have led to a large number of continued mask wearers.

French teacher Ms.Lyons has begun to worry about family members outside of school, “People with unvaccinated family members could be affected by this trial.”

Similar to Lyons, Hay also had some safety concerns for unvaccinated students or family members. “My worry is something similar to the Delta variant could spread to family [members]  at home or spread through the school,” Hay said.

By the second week of optional mask-wearing, on Monday, November 8, the number of maskless students increased.

At 12:10 PM, November 9th, the first Covid case was announced since the optional mask mandate has been in place. The school is working to identify close contacts.