Masters unmasks, students react

Masters+unmasks%2C+students+react

After two long years of masks, dividers, and zoom, The Masters School has officially gone mask optional. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020, students, faculty, and staff have all been required to wear a mask in order to protect themselves and others, but now people can make their own choice. This groundbreaking news has prompted both support and opposition from students. 

Laura Danforth, head of school, sent a school-wide email explaining the new guidelines. As of March 3 2022, Masters now has a mask optional policy. The weekly pooled testing will be stopped after the week of March 1st. If cases go up in the area, the mask mandate can be reinstated. Danforth called an all school meeting to discuss the importance of respecting one another’s choices of wearing or not wearing a mask, reminding the school that not everyone knows the reasoning behind such personal choices.

Masters latest pool testing results have declared over 873 testing samples to all be negative, completing the now six-week streak of all negative testing results. 

Senior Clyde Lederman, is in agreement of the administration’s choice to lift the mask mandate. Lederman said, “It makes sense that they [Masters] are aligning themselves with CDC guidelines. We’re in a position where we have most of our students and faculty and staff vaccinated which protects us.”

While the mask optional guideline has been widely accepted, the stopping of the weekly PCR testing has not been as favorable. Lederman said, “That protocol in particular [PCR testing] to me, seems like the one that they [Masters] should maintain. Not the virtual aspect, but rather the testing after spring break because of a lot of travel.”

Junior, Eleanor Dundas, is still choosing to actively wear a mask despite the new mask-optional policy. Dundas believes that the administration should have waited longer to get rid of the mask mandate, especially without the pooled testing in place. “I was hoping they would wait a bit longer. We’ve always had so many different protection methods, and instead of repealing them one at a time, the fact that they got rid of both at once makes me nervous,” Dundas said.

I feel confident at this point that we can do this safely. If we have individuals who are concerned, and they want others around them to wear a mask, we’ve asked people to be respectful and considerate of that. ”

— Sue Adams

Dundas also maintains that when it comes to the pandemic, our school has responded really well when it comes to mandating vaccinations and masks, which she believes is the smartest decision to keep the community safe. With the mask-optional decision, Dundas was hoping that the school would still recommend a facial covering, instead of sending a message to not make fun of those who choose to wear a mask. “All it does is effectively alienate those who still choose to wear masks and tell the student body that those people are different,” Dundas said. 

Sue Adams, the director of health services, and the healthcare team have worked diligently to make this important decision for the community. Most of the decision making process involved following the CDC, who changed their guidelines last week due to low infection rates and hospital activity. “I feel confident at this point that we can do this safely. If we have individuals who are concerned, and they want others around them to wear a mask, we’ve asked people to be respectful and considerate of that,” Adams said. 

Adams said that the administration has not received much backlash while making this decision. It has been a tough two years with this pandemic, but she recognizes that this shift is a big deal for the community since COVID is going from a school organization responsibility to a personal one. “I think we are just going to take it one step at a time. We just had five weeks of negative pooled testing results, so that was a really good condition to go into all of this because it’s reassuring,” Adams said. Both the healthcare team and her acknowledge that it is possible modifications may have to be made as the virus could possibly start spreading again, which means back to masking up. 

Junior class president, Tyler Hack, has taken advantage of the mask optional policy but still chooses to continue wearing a mask during certain classes 

Hack said, “I want to respect all my teachers in any way I can, and if that means wearing a mask in their class then I am completely okay with that.” Hack believes that Masters has been following enough safety protocols to be able to make the decree of optional masks. He said, “Based on our current case counts, it seems to make sense, but after wearing a mask for two years, it feels super weird to take it off.”