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A Welcome Relief or a New Source of Anxiety?

by Emma Paulino and Valerie Torres

Photo by: Alessandro Haviland-Kelly

Masks are coming off in public schools all around the world, this a big deal in Manhattan, and everywhere. This was effective starting March 9th, 2022. We have had our masks on for around 2 years and for the 6th graders this has given us so much anxiety, starting a new school and only seeing half of everyone's face. It was really hard when it first started, but a lot of us have adjusted and we feel as though everyone has gotten used to or adapted to masks on our faces most of the time.

As the masks have slowly come off, we have noticed the 6th grade is about 50/50. Half of people wear their masks during school hours (besides lunch) the other half doesn’t. So we go into the 6th grade to see how some people feel.

Personally, we feel that it’s fine if some people take off their masks as long as everyone is safe and tested at least twice a month because a lot of people have gone through really bad experiences with Covid themselves or with family members. According to our survey of 86 responses of 6th grade teachers and mostly 6th grade students, 85% of people in 6th grade agree with us. Almost 100 million Americans have died from coronavirus so this is a very serious topic. Us lucky people have survived coronavirus, unlike the unlucky others . This does not mean we have to stop testing and being safe around everyone.

When we asked how she felt about schools lifting the mask mandate, 6th grade science teacher Polly Sepowitz stated “I was a little apprehensive at first, but mostly it feels nice to see students' faces, to not have to police mask-wearing, and to be able to take more short mask breaks myself. I also feel protected in my KF94 mask, which, combined with low Covid rates in NYC, puts me at ease.” We completely agree with Polly and we feel it’s nice to see classmates and teachers' faces. Polly also stated “I will continue to wear my mask while teaching, in large part to make sure students feel comfortable continuing to wear their own masks if they so choose, and also because I know we have students who are still anxious about the masks coming off, and seeing their teachers wear masks might help to alleviate some anxiety.”Polly understands her students and is trying to do what she thinks will make them comfortable.

10th grader Naidelyn Contreras has stated “I was definitely nervous about it, if people were going to keep wearing it or not. However, from what I have seen at school, most people are still wearing it, which is good. It's definitely strange seeing people's whole face” Yes it is very strange because this is the first time where you are seeing their faces without seeing their full face for over 2 years. They are also seeing yours which is completely normal so we strongly agree. Naidelyn also stated “I'm still going to wear my mask because I feel comfortable and safe with it on and I want to protect my family as best as I can during the pandemic.”

Naidelyn Contreras has a very good point and that brings us to what 6th Grade ELA teacher Christina Hiras states “I think it is a relief for many people. Personally, I worry that we have not done enough as a country to stop the spread of Covid. I think there are still many people at risk, like the elderly and immunocompromised people. I think there is too much misinformation and false news about vaccines, and that is preventing people from getting the vaccine, even though the science tells us that vaccines work and are effective for stopping the spread.” We agree especially when she said that our country should try and stop COVID.

Christina also stated “I will keep mine on when I'm teaching because I still see friends and family from out of state who are immunocompromised. Also I would feel really bad if I exposed any of my students. But I do feel comfortable pulling it down to quickly re-explain something for my students if they couldn't hear me the first time or need a clearer explanation. Also, not having to remind students about wearing masks properly is the best! I am so glad I don't have to do that anymore!!” We are also so glad to not be reminded of putting our masks back up.

For our last opinion, 6th grader Sloane Clark stated “I think that we need more time for COVID to be more done, or there to be less covid, for us to take off our masks. I think that we need more time.” Of Course everyone needs time and some people don't, it depends on the person. “I am going to keep wearing mine till I am more comfortable. COVID is still going on, so i think we should keep them on for a little longer.” Yes if you are comfortable like that then that is your choice.

This is what the sixth grade teachers and students think about what is going on. Everyone should still wear their masks when they feel it is necessary, and take it off when they feel comfortable.

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