Mask trial extended a second time

The week after the Thanksgiving breaks teachers and students were instructed to keep their masks on to prevent any Covid cases from spreading. That same week the school committee took a new vote regarding the optional mask trial.

A federal requirement states masks must be worn on all school buses and remains in effect. Over the holiday weekend, the MIAA declared all winter sports must wear masks inside.

Meanwhile, the high school maintained masks for the week after Thanksgiving.

During that week, at least two students were out of school with Covid. Their close contacts were informed to take precautions.

The students of the high school receive an email every time a student tests positive for covid. In the month of November, students received three emails. The students received only one email in October.

With the Covid cases increasing, and most high schoolers are unable to receive a booster shot since there currently is a minimum age requirement of 18. most students will surpass their six-month protection in the coming weeks.

The school committee meeting revealed the results from a poll given to students after the mask option trial before Thanksgiving. The survey included 260 student responses, roughly 25% of the student body.

Also according to the poll, 63.2 percent of students reported improved learning experience without masks.

Senior Kayali Pandian said, “My experience was good. I like seeing the faces of my teachers and friends and it made it easier to hear my teachers talk.”

According to the presentation made during the school committee meeting, teachers also reported students were better in-class discussions, “I feel better connected to fellow students while not wearing a mask,” Pandian said.

The school committee presentation also stated students with ADHD reported they had an easier time focusing on learning. Students also reported that it was harder to get one-on- teacher feedback.

“The mask mandate has helped me focus more on my classes, I always found the mask distracting and hard to breathe through, ” senior Henry Wailgum said.

The presentation also showed 71% of students respond the mask optional trial improved their experience by improving friendships, confidence, and led to happier hallways and a more recognizable high school experience.

“After a year and a half of having limited interaction with teachers and classmates, having the option to wear a mask enhanced my relationships and helped me make stronger connections with others,” senior Gabi Ciri said.

Students did also reported via the survey they were more cautious to avoid getting Covid. They worry they might expose high-risk family members.

“I’m hoping there isn’t an outbreak, I don’t wanna get sick even if it’s just a cold,” Pandian said.

Junior Bella Scalora agreed, “I like the mask optional policy, but there might be more cases.”

Survey presentation results also showed teachers reporting emails from students asking to be moved away from maskless students in classrooms. Some teachers also reported having a hard time giving one-on-one feedback because they didn’t want to get too close to a student.

Finally, 85.4% of students voted to return to mask optional.

“I think the mask optional policy is working well and is the best way to accommodate everyone’s wants and needs,” Ciri said.

With all of this information in mind, the school committee decided to reinstate the mask optional trial, effective Monday, December 6.