Midlo goes maskless

Updated mask mandate stirs controversy


Photo by: Kyle Reeder

Masks become optional for all students in Chesterfield County Public Schools on January 27, 2022.

Ever since students returned to in-person learning during mid-November of 2020, masks have been mandated and strictly enforced by Chesterfield County in accordance with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. Therefore, the practice of wearing a mask over the mouth and nose became an everyday practice for students. However, since the inauguration of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, the wearing of masks and their effects, in general, have been re-evaluated.

On Tuesday, January 25, the Chesterfield County School Board met to discuss the idea of lifting the mask mandate in schools.  After an intense meeting, the School Board voted to accept the Governor’s mandate 3-to-2. This means parents would be allowed to decide whether or not their student would wear a mask in school.  

Within the first week of the School Board decision, only one-third of Midlo students had stopped wearing masks.                         Photo by Kyle Reeder

After polling from a random sample of students from Midlo, the data shows that out of nearly four hundred students, sixty-seven percent prefer to continue wearing their masks in school, while thirty-three percent choose not to wear their masks any longer.

Among the reasons students gave for continuing to mask up is their relation to susceptible family members at home or because they have parents working in health care or another vulnerable industry.

“I wear one because I don’t want to get COVID, and my mom works in a hospital, so I hear a lot about what goes on,” sophomore Natasha Forest said. Similarly, sophomore Gabe Ramirez wears his because “both of [his] parents are nurses.”

“I wear it because some of my friends have auto-immune diseases and are susceptible,” senior Melissa Thompson said.

With many teachers and students still wary about the virus, students have also shared that they wear theirs for those who are still concerned. “I do it for other people,” sophomore Danni Marmo said. Similarly, “I just wear mine out of respect for the teachers and nurses,” sophomore Meghan Lambert said.

“I have family at home, and I don’t want them to get sick,” sophomore Abby Hanley said.

There remain other factors as well that went into students’ decisions, including making a fashion statement. For senior Andrew Kozusko, he wears his mask “because it looks good with my outfits. Sometimes I have a black mask or a pink one, and it just looks good with what I wear,” Kozusko said. However, Kozusko also noted that the concept of “COVID cliques” also played into his decision in regards to the peer pressure he felt by those around him to wear one.

It is important to note though that there are always two sides that exist in decision-making processes, such as the one to not wear a mask. Once the mandate was lifted, a hand full of students took advantage of the Governor’s order and decided to ditch the mask altogether.

”I choose not to wear one because it irritates my skin and makes it harder for me to breathe. Looking at the studies, masks don’t really help that much unless you have a certain one. The best thing to do would be to stay home if sick and get vaccinated,” sophomore Lillie Pittman said. Along the same lines as Pittman, sophomore Sydney White said “I don’t wear it so that I can breathe.” Beyond the irksome nature of masks, students have also come to acknowledge the unavoidable presence of the virus in the world.

“I think all of us have to adapt to this new way of life because this virus is never going away,” sophomore Natalie Medlin said.

In addition, sophomore Maura Beken chose not to wear her mask “because I think that they’re not helping us like people think they are.  We take them off to eat, when we’re outside, in gym, etc. Having to wear them everywhere else doesn’t make sense to me. People are still getting COVID. I think that we need to get our society back to normal, where everyone isn’t afraid of a virus, and this is our first step,” Beken said.

Despite the varying degree of opinions regarding the shift in the mask mandate, Midlo faculty and staff encourage the community to respect the decisions of all as we continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic at hand.