Going Mask Optional

Molly Kenealy, Writer

Recently, York High School has implemented a new “mask optional” policy. This changes the previous policy that required students to wear masks during the school day and during extra curriculars. Students and faculty have varying perspectives on this new policy.

Some faculty members agree that it is very refreshing and encouraging to see the faces of students. Ted Hutch, track coach and an Ed-Tech at YHS says, “it’s great seeing people’s faces, it’s been really nice to “meet people I already know.” Hutch says that when he initially found out that YHS would be going mask optional, he felt “very, very excited,” joking that it was mostly for selfish reasons, such as that his track athletes don’t have to wear masks anymore. After experiencing a week of a mask optional school environment, he says that he thinks it was a good decision.

YHS math teacher Kristi Bean shares this enthusiasm, while also voicing some concerns. She says, “I was a little nervous only because it’s been two years, it feels like a habit.” One of her biggest concerns about the change from mandatory masking is that she hopes that everyone’s decision, whether it be to keep wearing a mask or to stop wearing a mask, will be respected. For the most part, she believes that students have done a great job being respectful of their peers’ decisions. Bean notes some positive changes she’s seen after experiencing classes of students without masks. She says, “I feel like my kids are a little bit more energetic, I’m hearing people talking more. I feel like the energy is a little different.” 

Katie Lutts, PE and health teacher, also has some concerns similar to Bean. Lutts says that when she found out about the policy change she was anxious. She explains that she “had some anxieties and fears about how it’s still winter, we’re still in school. It doesn’t necessarily seem like a great idea to go fully without masks right now, which is part of why I still wear mine.” Although she is happy to see the faces of students, she feels fearful about the potential rebound of Covid cases in school, and the serious situation that can lead to. Lutts also has a more personal look at the situation. Lutts states, “my fiance is an SU nurse who works exclusively with people who have been dying of covid, and her perspective is that everyone should keep their mask on in public places. I like to listen to her because she’s been putting people in body bags.” It is a jarring realization that even though YHS seemingly does not have to worry about masks, Covid-19 is still a prominent issue. 

In addition to teachers, some YHS students shared how they initially felt about optional masking, and how they feel now. Sophomore Lilly Leonhard says, “I was really happy when I found out because I really didn’t like having to wear masks.” This is something that other students may relate to, because she also says that in her experience, “everyone wore them under their noses anyways, so it’s not like they helped much.” After being around her classmates without masks for a while, she thinks it is weird seeing people without them. Laughing, she says, “all of the teachers look different, also everyone has mustaches now which I was not expecting!” 

Senior Avery Boissonneault had a different outlook when he first found out about the policy change. He states, “Along with a lot of my peers, I found it surprising and a little bit too soon.” Although he felt that way in the beginning, he says that it does feel much more normal now and that “people’s choice to make either decision is something that is pretty normalized and respected.” Getting different feedback from students shows clear diversity in the opinions of the student body, but there also seems to be a lot of respect that students have for each other and their decisions. 

Evidently, the initiation of the mask optional policy at YHS has been a lifted burden for some, and a cause of stress for others. The different opinions shed light on the perspectives that people within the YHS community have. It is refreshing to see that even in times of controversial decisions such as this one, students and staff are respectful and gracious towards one another regardless of what decisions people make.