Students, teachers decide whether to wear masks at school

On+March+21%2C+the+first+day+of+optional+mask+wearing%2C+sophomores+Adam+Cheema+and+Reid+Surmeier+talk+in+the+second+floor+lounge.

Carter Chang

On March 21, the first day of optional mask wearing, sophomores Adam Cheema and Reid Surmeier talk in the second floor lounge.

Caroline Hohner, Features Editor

For the first time since March 2020, unmasked faces flooded into the U-High hallways as students returned from spring break March 21. However, for every student who left their KN95 at home, there was another who elected to continue wearing one. 

On March 5, Director of Schools Tori Jueds announced that masks would be optional at school following spring break, after members of the community took two rapid antigen tests leading up to the return. Students and teachers alike were left to decide for themselves if and when to continue wearing masks.

Junior Lusia Austen, wary of a COVID-19 outbreak at school following spring break, chose to continue wearing a mask at school.

“I don’t play with these people. I don’t really, especially coming back from spring break,” Lusia said. “I wouldn’t say that I really trust that everybody […] actually actively, accurately tested and remained safe over break.”

The end of the mask mandate still impacted mask usage habits for those who chose to stay masked most of the time. Lusia said she sometimes pulls her mask down, but continues to wear it in most situations. 

Senior Laura Vairus, who plans to stay masked at school, will remain on guard for another wave of COVID-19 and cases being spread to Lab from outside the community. 

Aside from wearing a mask out of habit and concern for personal health, ninth grader Lisa Tao keeps her mask on to protect those close to her. 

“I am very close with some people who have compromised immune systems, so I just continue to wear a mask to keep them safe and keep myself safe, even though I am fully vaccinated,” Lisa said. 

It makes me proud of our community that we are at least mindful and kind to each other no matter what, because this is a disease, people are going through it in different ways.”

— Megan Janda

Others, like sophomore Kian Quinn-Calabrese, decided whether to stay masked based on the actions of friends and teachers like chemistry teacher Zach Hund.

“I’m continuing to wear a mask because Dr. Hund is doing it, and I respect that man too much to not follow anything that he does,” Kian said. 

Like those who stayed masked, students and teachers who bared the bottom halves of their faces chose to do so for numerous reasons, including convenience and trust in vaccines and low case numbers..

“I’m what you call lazy, and I couldn’t be bothered going through the efforts of looking for my mask again,” sophomore Myles Holmes said. “And so, I’ve decided that I’m not going to wear it.”

Junior Kavan Puri chose not to wear a mask due to his vaccination status and recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.

P.E. teacher Meghan Janda chose not to wear a mask, partly because many of her classes are taught outside or in spaces where students can spread out, and partly because she communicates with students better without one.

“For me, it’s been helpful to be able to communicate better with my students because I’m not screaming through a mask and trying to get attention,” Ms. Janda said. “And I’m very facially expressive. So that’s also been helpful. I can, you know, share my smile more now.”

Ms. Janda said she was relieved to see students respecting each other’s personal decisions on mask usage.

“It makes me proud of our community that we are at least mindful and kind to each other no matter what, because this is a disease, people are going through it in different ways,” Ms. Janda said. “So I love that about our communities.”