Major school districts across the country have removed the mask restrictions that caused intense fighting among parents, educators, and school boards during the pandemic.
New York City was the latest school district to remove its mask requirement Monday. Philadelphia is now poised to lift the mandate Wednesday. This joins big cities like Houston and Dallas, as well as a few other states that have made similar moves over the past week. Next Monday , Chicago schools will be free from the mask requirement.
The new rules present a difficult balance for parents, teachers, and principals. While some families are happy that their children don’t have to wear masks anymore, others feel hesitant and want their children to continue wearing face covers. Principals and teachers are caught in the middle.
Deena Bishop, Anchorage’s School Superintendent, says that lifting the mandate from the city’s nearly 100 schools last week was a relief, despite some bumpy patches.
Bishop said she was made aware of several comments teachers made inadvertently that “didn’t sit well with students and/or their parents.” For example, a teacher singled out a child whose parents wanted them to wear a mask while another made a student feel guilty for not wearing one.
She stated that the incidents served as “teachable moment” to remind staff that “a decision is a choice” and that they must respect that home’s decision.
Bishop stated that there was much angst and a lot more fighting in the city about wearing masks. “So I’m glad we’ve won that fight. All of that is over now, so we can focus on learning.
New federal guidance and falling infection rates are prompting most states that have statewide school mask mandates to abandon them. New guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that most Americans live in areas where students and healthy people can take a break wearing masks.
However, those who are hesitant to end school mask mandates often point out the low vaccination rates of American children. According to the CDC, only 25% of children aged 5-11 have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus and 58% of those aged 12-17 are inoculated.
New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts have rescinded the statewide school mask requirements. New Jersey and Rhode Island officially dropped theirs Monday, while California and Oregon jointly announced that they will drop their statewide mandates effective February 12.
In many cases, the final decisions are made at the level of the local school district.
Many officials in large cities, including Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, D.C., said that they will keep the mask rules in place until students are vaccinated. Or they can make agreements with teachers unions, who have been vocal about wanting to remove the mandates.
Chicago schools have announced Monday that no masks will be required starting March 14. The teachers union in the city has promised to sue officials, claiming the move would violate an agreement with district officials to maintain the mask rule until the end of school year.
Jack Jalaly, an elementary student in New York City, took off his mask Monday to be part of the largest school district in the country.
Andrea, Jack’s mother, said that “It’s great because children can see their teachers talking, and I have a younger child who has spent her entire time without any face, right?” It’s great for children as you can see how words are pronounced, and spellings.
Third-grader Derrick CarterJacob didn’t let his guard down as New York removed the requirement. He said, “I don’t want to get COVID.”
“Leave the rest to me. Michael Jacob, his parent, said that there is no reason for him not to keep it on until everyone is safe. “I want my child to be safe. I’m sorry. This is how I see it.
John Bracey is a Belmont High School Latin teacher in suburban Boston. He says he plans to continue wearing his N95 hospital-grade respirator throughout the academic year, even though district officials will be deciding on their school mandate later in the week.
Bellingham resident, 41 years old, said that he and his wife decided to continue wearing masks for his children’s school this week, even though the district had lifted the requirement on Monday.
Bracey stated that “I have major concerns at so many levels.” It seems like a decision to favor the most privileged, and everyone else is left to their own devices. We are putting at risk the health of immunocompromised students, older staff and parents with young children. They should be removed because there is no public health or moral reason to do so.
School administrators in Needham, a Boston suburb, waited until Monday to allow students to transition to a “mask-friendly” environment.
He stated that the posters and videos of informational videos made by district officials appear to have paid off. There are no reports of major disputes, or any other issues related to mask wearing after Monday’s classes.
Melissa Bello claims that her two school-aged children were among the ones who gladly took off their masks Monday.
She claims that her 8-year old son, who has lost his hearing in both of his ears, has complained about having difficulty understanding people at school. For the past two years, everyone has worn masks.
Bello stated that Bello noticed Bello working harder at school, but coming home tireder. “These mask mandates don’t allow for the right tradeoffs,” Bello said.
Jason Chan, another Needham parent, stated that his two school-aged children arrived Monday wearing masks and will likely continue to do so throughout the week.
He believes that his children, including a 5-year old son, would be fine with wearing masks until the end.
Chan stated that the children have done better than their parents in masks. Chan said that while parents are often upset, children don’t see it in the same light when it comes to civil rights issues. It’s almost like wearing a sweater or a hat for them.