To Mask or Not to Mask

In St. Johns County, students are left to their own devices–or masks.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of all, and if there is one thing our community can agree on, it’s that its vast impact does not stop at education. 

Students have switched gears from in-person learning with hands-on education and making new friends to an isolated, virtual school back to “brick and mortar” school all in the span of two years. We have been patient toward the back and forth learning environments which took away from what was normal two years ago to an education within a screen. The toll from the pandemic limited not only our educational experience but also our social events ranging from football games to homecoming to even graduation. However, the majority of students once learning online have now returned to the classroom.

The contrast between the last school year and 2021-2002 is significant. For instance, the regulations for coming into contact with COVID-positive students differ from last school year. This year, students who are not vaccinated must self-quarantine for seven consecutive days from contact. Those who are fully vaccinated may remain at school.

Last year, the quarantine not only set me back on my school work but also set me back socially. I felt left out. I missed out on talking with friends, sitting with them at lunch or even gossiping about the latest news. In contrast, this year, I now have the opportunity to remain in school which aids myself and other students mentally.

Our Florida high schools have chosen these avenues in relation to vaccine distributions for ages 12 and older. As a junior at Nease High School, interactions with my peers regarding the pandemic vary from person to person. I encounter students wearing masks coming from distance learning enjoying their time at school. The majority of students do not enjoy waking up at 7 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. to attend school, but they do appreciate seeing their friends and communicating with ease to their teachers.

Nonetheless, students have to educate themselves by attending school in the midst of the pandemic. The wide distribution of vaccines to individuals ages 12 and up allows students flexibility in wearing a mask or not at school. Although the benefits of in-person learning enable students to interact with others and have a hands-on learning environment, there remains the risk of spreading the virus among one’s peers and teachers. 

There is a scent of uncertainty and fear within the air regarding the circumstances. Regardless, we, as students, must choose the path we believe is safest for ourselves, our families and all those around us. Even within the pandemic, we are still a community of students working toward expanding our knowledge and self-growth of spreading kindness and compassion to one another.

About Ariel Rademeyer