Student Opinions Vary On Mask Mandate Ahead of Vote

Anna Popnikolova is a sophomore at Nantucket High School and a talented writer for the student newspaper Veritas who regularly contributes to Nantucket Current. In today’s column, Popnikolova spoke to Nantucket Public School students about the upcoming vote on rescinding the district’s indoor mask mandate.

With the Nantucket School Committee set to vote Wednesday night on whether to lift the indoor mask mandate at the island’s public schools, students’ opinions are varied on the best path forward. 

Governor Charlie Baker announced last week that as of Feb. 28, masks will no longer be required in public schools. But individual school districts have the authority to require masks on their own campuses.  

As students and teachers alike continue to navigate the pandemic and the school community feels the Omicron wave level out, there was still some concern and discontentment among the student body concerning tonight’s vote.

Some students feel as though masks are still important and should remain required for the well-being of the students and teachers, and their families. Other students think that the mandate has been in place for too long, and that masks are no longer needed to regulate the pandemic.

Sophomore Claire Martin argued strongly for the School Committee to maintain the mandate: “If we get a spike, like what happened at Christmas, and people aren’t wearing their masks, it’s going to happen all over again,” Martin said. 

Many kids are still left shaken from the effects of the Omicron wave, which caused hundreds of absences and an all-time high of COVID-19 cases on Nantucket and in the rest of the country. As Martin expressed, kids do not wish to relive the massive COVID-19 spike. Another student at NHS who chose to remain anonymous said of the students in the school who disliked the mandate: “just because you are bored of COVID doesn’t mean people aren’t still in danger. Sorry it’s inconvenient.”

Most student arguments to keep the mandate focus on the importance of safety in the school community and worries that removing masks could create a false sense of security.

On the other hand, there are the students who feel that the mandate is no longer necessary.

“School is one of the only places we have to wear them and half of the school doesn’t even wear them. Also, COVID is always going to be a thing from now on, so we might as well stop worrying about it,” said Martina Savova, a freshman at NHS.

The public schools are one of the only places on the island still holding a mandatory mask mandate said sophomore Madeline Reimo. “It’s lifted downtown, where people are still crowded…I don’t think it’s a big deal anymore,” she said, adding that the mask mandate is “kinda pointless now.” 

Around the school, a large number of students in the halls and in classrooms can be seen not wearing masks — or, when they are wearing them, they are worn incorrectly.

“The people who won’t wear a mask when it’s removed aren’t wearing it properly now anyway,” said Benton Killion, a sophomore at NHS.

Other students repeated that most high school students at NHS don’t wear their masks the right way — either below their nose or below their chin. That has convinced many students that whether the mandate is in place or not, the situation will be the same.

Eli Fuller, a junior, said, “No one is following it, so at this point it basically doesn’t exist. If it’s lifted, people will at least be a little bit happier.”

The majority of students interviewed who supported the lifting of the mandate additionally expressed that they would continue wearing their masks, regardless of the mandate. “I think that if people want to wear their masks to keep them safe, I believe you should be able to. Personally, I’m going to continue to wear my mask because I believe it’s going to continue to keep me and my family safe,” commented freshman Taylor Bistany.

“I will probably still continue to wear my mask,” Fuller said.

Student opinions are mixed and the argument remains. The School Committee will meet tonight at 6pm to vote on the mask mandate at Nantucket Public Schools — but individual students will still have every freedom to wear their masks at school if they so choose, regardless of the verdict. 

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