Policymakers would only have to spend one day in a classroom to understand why masks should be mandatory
Dahee Im // Contributor
Sophie Young // Illustrator
Wearing a mask in public is the new norm. Everywhere we go, “masks required” signs are increasing as rules become stricter. Without a mask, you can’t go into shops and won’t be served by restaurants. Yet, there are many viral videos about anti-maskers and those who think wearing a mask is threatening their so-called “rights” as a human being despite the many layers of why it’s important to wear masks—even if it’s not 100 percent effective. Now, the majority of public places that see high foot traffic will have a mandatory mask policy. This is simple and makes sense, along with other safety protocols such as hand hygiene and remaining six feet apart.
Where this has become blurred is in schools. Sure, sanitizer is allegedly provided for teachers and their classrooms, and policies are being created by school boards and school leadership teams in an attempt to keep everyone safe. The question still remains, why aren’t masks mandatory in schools, and is there a reason they aren’t? Teachers work closely with their colleagues and are even closer in proximity to their children. An ad from the BC government was released showing back-to-school guidelines. The video of Bonnie Henry standing without a mask in front of a class showing what she projects a classroom will look like, is unrealistic as there are far more children in attendance than shown and space is quite limited in a lot of classrooms. The rules she announced for schools are also inaccurate because this is dependent on the policies the school boards have created and each individual school’s expectations or policies. A simple thirty-second video just does not do justice to the realities of an actual classroom.
Look, I get it. Masks are another thing to remind children about and they can be forgetful and careless when they become too comfortable in their surroundings. Throwing up an elbow or grabbing a tissue is not the first thing many younger children will think of when they cough or sneeze. If masks were mandatory, this could be taken care of. Children may stick their hands in their mouths before touching a peer without a thought or eat finger foods and then touch a toy or communal classroom object. If children were required to wear masks in school, we could prevent more moments of possible contamination and the spread of germs, bacteria and viruses. If wearing masks is one of the most effective ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we should be mandating masks inside schools where there is a huge sea of bodies and immune systems exposed.
Wearing a mask means being protected more than in the school; it means we’re protecting and being aware of the people outside of our school circles.
Policies should be tighter. We can sanitize and wipe down surfaces all we want, but if we continue to breathe and spit back onto the same surfaces, what is the point? We might as well hire our own personal cleaners and sanitizing people—one per student and one per teacher! Some children, especially the younger ones, can’t help being in each other’s faces. They don’t realize how close they are to one another physically, and a mask would help ease some anxiety in this situation.
Wearing a mask means being protected more than in the school; it means we’re protecting and being aware of the people outside of our school circles. It just feels like common sense. That there is a huge on-going forum regarding the issue, vaccine or not, should be a sign to policymakers that there needs to be a change. Parents, teachers and families aren’t asking for hazmat suits or to have everything absolutely sectioned off in schools so people cannot be near each other. We are just asking for one simple but effective health precautionary step that can be taken—to wear a mask. Make masks mandatory in schools. To me, it’s just so simple.