Masks down, tensions up


Tanvi Pedireddi

During lunch, students have the opportunity to remove their masks while in the school building. Starting March 1, however, this limitation will be stretched. “Lunch is the only time we take off our masks, so it’s going to be interesting to see how things will be without the mandate in place,” sophomore Rewa Repala said.

Tanvi Pedireddi, Staff Writer

Until now, most students have only been able to see their friends without masks during lunch while they’re scarfing down food. Soon, however, they may see them face to face throughout the day. On March 1, Gov. Youngkin’s bill banning Virginia schools’ mandate on masks is going into effect.

This year, FCPS’s mask mandate has been strictly enforced by Jefferson. However, the news of a bill that may lift this restriction has come with mixed reactions. Teachers have begun to talk to their students about this significant change.

“If staff members aren’t required to wear their mask, then my teacher said he would not be wearing a mask when the ban is lifted,” sophomore Sophie Keating said.

While there are some teachers and students that are excited by the prospects of not having to wear a mask at school, there are others who are worried about the negative consequences of it.

“My grandparents live with me. That’s my main concern. Even though most of the school is vaccinated, I think the problem is people bringing COVID back home from school. We can’t control what they do outside of the school building,” Keating said.

There are options available for those who are concerned about the lifting of this mandate, such as compromises within classes. For instance, a class might agree for all students to wear their masks because a student might be high-risk.

“A few of my teachers mentioned that if those with masks aren’t comfortable being near people without [a mask], they’ll try to make sure they aren’t grouped together for projects or assignments,” sophomore Rewa Repala said.

The strict enforcement of the mask mandate prevented Jefferson from slipping back into online school by limited COVID cases among students and staff. Some believe that the mandate is needed to maintain in person school.

“I think the mask mandate should not be lifted because it impacts the people around you and it doesn’t really help either side. I think it would be ideal since we’re already in person at school. If we want to keep it this way, then it’s optimal for everyone to keep their masks on,” Keating said.

The Loudoun County Public School system lifted the mask mandate on February 7, 2022. According to current Loudoun students, few have taken advantage of the removal of the mandate.

“From what I’ve heard from my brother, who’s in 8th grade, most people are keeping their masks on. He hasn’t mentioned a huge number of people going to school without them. One of my friends from my base school mentioned that there were maybe two to three people without masks that they saw. All of her teachers wore their masks,” Repala said.

At Jefferson, whether students and faculty will keep their masks on is still unclear. According to Repala, however, some of her teachers have spoken to this.

“I think that most students will keep wearing their masks, but I’ve heard different things from teachers. Some of my teachers will definitely keep their masks on, and they advise us to do the same. Some of my other teachers have said they wouldn’t wear masks,” Repala said.

While students may remain cautious of their mask wearing, it is possible that this wariness may deplete as time goes on.

“Even with the mask mandate, if things get better, people will gradually start to take their mask off. In my opinion, there should still be [a mandate] to keep everyone safe,” Repala said.