Mask-optional Policy: Confusing or Liberating?


Photo by Ariana Delabra

Teacher Stacy Arevlao remained masked while talking to sophomores Rene Oseguera and Jiovany Martinez-Nolasco in Tutorial on Sept. 7

With more relaxed rules concerning masks and other COVID-19 precautions, a typical scene happened in a Tutorial on Sep. 7. About 20 sophomores filled the room and only six were wearing masks. Teacher Stacy Arevalo was wearing a mask – she is pregnant but also generally cautious about COVID. Asked how she felt about the flexible rules, she looked at her unmasked students and asked wryly, “Like how I’m sending my sneezing student to get a mask right now?”

Returning to classes this semester has been confusing. Should we wear masks? Will it be required? Will the teachers wear masks? Every class is different and every day brings changes.

Last year, air purifiers were added to classrooms, masks were required, weekly tests were administered, and there was no dining inside the cafeteria. Common practices evolved over the year and eventually weekly testing stopped as did the requirement to wear masks outdoors.

This year, the new COVID rules were announced at assemblies during the first week: Now, masks are not required indoors, just  “strongly recommended”. Principal Chris Bischof explained that the rules are based on guidelines from the County and State health departments.

“If the number of cases in the area goes up, then we may require them again,” he said. “Otherwise, it’ll just be based on personal choice, but still strongly recommended.”

Most people appreciate the flexibility, but it can be confusing for people who are looking for clues for how to behave and see people changing their approach day by day.

Math teacher Hai Tran teaches numerous classes every day, often wearing a mask. But in senior AB-Calculus class he chooses not to wear a mask.

“In a smaller class the risk is much lower,” he said. “I told our seniors if any of you want me to wear a mask, let me know and I’ll wear a mask.”

Hai is staying informed about the health guidelines and feels confident in his approach.

Freshman Dylan Herrera said he decided he doesn’t need to wear a mask all the time because he had already had COVID-19 himself and felt it wasn’t worse than being sick in the past.

On the other hand, senior Gilberto Virrueta wears his mask every day because it makes him feel safe. He doesn’t mind that other people don’t wear masks, however, coughing and sneezing make him worry.

“It’s a personal decision,” he said, “but if they’re sick, they should put it on.”