A professional’s view on mask mandates in public schools

Photo courtesy of Mika Baumeister, Unsplash.

On Aug. 9, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 251 which implemented a mask mandate for all students and staff in New Jersey public schools due to high exposure to the COVID-19 delta variant.

Executive Order 251 has been implemented for all levels of schooling in the Garden State. On Aug. 6 Governor Murphy was accompanied by parents, school employees and medical professionals in East Brunswick about this new E.O.. Superintendent Victor Valeski stepped up at the Conference saying, “This necessary, incremental step, aligned with guidance already provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the American Academy of Pediatrics will help ensure our East Brunswick School community’s safety during periods of spiked variant transmissibility and until vaccinations are available to all our students.”

Just down the road from East Brunswick High School stands my home high school, Spotswood High School. As all the same rules and regulations were put in place, students and staff have been abiding by the new mandate.

I took time to speak to my mother, Gina Perez, who is one of the many paraprofessionals at SHS. She talked about her feelings on masking children in schools being mixed, but ultimately about how it will stop the spread. 

She says there are still incidents of students not complying with the mask policy. Perez went on to explain that the incidents have been minimal.

“They are mostly students just not wearing the masks properly,” Perez said. “But when asked to fix their masks, they do it without any questions.”

A poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research stated that about six in 10 Americans say students and teachers should be required to wear face masks while in school. Perez said that there are times where teachers and students get “mask breaks” throughout the school day. 

“Wearing a mask for six hours a day isn’t easy,” she said, “but during lunch, and if we go outside for our gym period, we are able to take our masks off.” She mentioned that this break is greatly appreciated by everyone.

Not all students have the same outlook on this mask mandate. When asked how her students were handling this mandatory rule set in place, she said, “I think the students in my school are handling this mandate well. I’m sure the thought of possibly going back to virtual learning if they don’t follow the rules of wearing a mask is always on their minds. My hope is we go back to a ‘normal’ school day soon.”

The sense of what was once called “normal” is upon us, aside from one factor, wearing a mask. As everyone is still learning about Covid, we are all trying to slow down the spread. While schools are still hot zones, getting vaccinated can help slow the spread and possibly dissipate the need for masks for good.