Masks No More

Mandate turns optional

Some agree with the mandate change because masks are hot, muggy, and muffle speaking. (Photo Illustration: Jordan Woogerd)

In March, the Department of Health in King County made the announcement that K-12 schools would be moving to a mask optional environment. There are mixed feelings and opinions throughout University Prep, though according to Brian Gonzales, chair of the COVID taskforce, all seem to be respectful.

“I’ve been amazed at how well we’ve adjusted to this, and how considerate, as well as thoughtful our community has been since March,” Gonzales said.

Though the UPrep community has seemed to handle this change well, some students had concerns about the mandate being lifted too early in the pandemic. Eighth grader Sonya Carter shared this opinion.

“It felt like everyone had worked so hard to safely move forward, and then all of a sudden they’re like ‘Oh, just forget about all of that,’” Carter said. “It felt disappointing and scary.”

While this was the case for Carter, middle school science teacher Brent Slattengren had different thoughts on this topic.

“I feel that the school’s timing of when they changed the policy was perfect, as far as safety issues being addressed by our state governor and the CDC,” Slattengren said.

Still, Carter felt that the timing was off, and that things might take a step in the wrong direction after the mask change.

“I was worried that we weren’t prepared, and that people would suddenly stop caring about COVID, or even just acting like it doesn’t exist anymore,” Carter said.

However, Gonzales stated that the policy was well thought through, as well as prepared for.

“The decision in March to go mask optional was not taken lightly at all,” Gonzales said.

Still, some middle schoolers feared an outbreak once masks were optional.

“At first, I was a little scared [of an outbreak],” Carter said. “As far as I’m concerned, there have only been small outbreaks, but I was scared of getting my family sick.”

According to Gonzales, outbreaks were one of the many topics that the COVID task force considered thoroughly before the mandate was lifted.

“The question early on was, ‘Are we about to have massive amounts of outbreaks?’” Gonzales said. “The data that we’ve seen has not been the case, and we really haven’t seen large-scale classroom transmission since we switched to mask optional.”

As many people are aware, COVID will be a large aspect of the UPrep community for a while.

“I think the idea of masks being optional will be a normal part of school life for the foreseeable future,” Gonzales said. “The power to choose if people want to wear masks at school or not will also be around for a while.”