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NEWS: BHS goes mask optional

By Olivia Gebhardt

Recently, a court order in Southern Illinois was passed making masks optional in around 170 school districts; however, the Batavia school district was not one of those. Batavia can make an individual decision on masking, and as of Thurs., Feb. 10, masking became optional. There are so many opinions on masks in the world and our school. Some students believe that masks are limiting and oppressive to wear, but others feel vulnerable when exposed. The challenge that faces the district is how to make everyone feel safe and comfortable in a learning environment.

Many students and parents have worries about the lifting of the mask mandate. The nurse at our school, Lori Carbonell, said “the teachers and overall staff vaccination rate is really high.” Carbonell also explained that masking is not the only factor that goes into stopping the spread of Covid-19, according to the CDC and Illinois state government. Some other factors are social distancing and ventilation. When considering what to do about masking in schools, it is important to know that the CDC still does recommend that students stay three feet apart and should still mask. One thing to consider is the metrics also as far as case count and test positivity rate.

“Especially in the last couple of weeks, it seems like our district numbers have gone down,” said BHS principal JoAnne Smith.

Another concern that students share is how split our community is because of the mask mandate.

Chase Wells said, “The student body will definitely be separated,” and Catherine McLaughlin said, “I think they will be separated because people are really judging everything based on politics but in reality, we shouldn’t be doing that.”

On Friday morning, February 11, the principal said on the announcement at Batavia High School told everyone to be respectful and safe in regards to masking. Principal Smith plans to combat divisiveness within the student body, and one way she plans to bring students together is through having more indoor events and assemblies to celebrate, which could make people who support masks uncomfortable.

There has been criticism on both sides of the mask debate. On Friday morning there was a walk-in protest scheduled where kids refused to wear masks and chant “Take off your mask.” Only a few individuals showed up because masks had already become optional, but the ones who did had signs that said “Your face, Your choice” and other anti-mask slogans. In response to the social media, Snapchat, about the walk-in, students who support mask-wearing made parodies of the scheduled protest.

Masking is not the only Covid measure being debated. Some kids still have worries about getting the vaccine and think that it doesn’t do anything.

“I do not follow the CDC or anything like that,” said Catherine McLaughlin in regards to masking in our school.

Nurse Carbonell wants to stay kind in her informing people about the vaccine.

“We don’t tell people, ‘Get the vaccine. It’s safe.’ We say, ‘Hey, here is the research,’” Carbonell said.

The CDC does say that it is safe and effective to get the vaccine. Also, the student vaccination rate is unknown because the school doesn’t require any vaccination status for students.

When masking is such a controversial issue, it is almost impossible to satisfy everyone’s needs. There has been one common theme among the students and staff; they want to go back to normal in a safe and respectful manner. Though the main problem still stands, how do you make a decision for everyone when not everyone has the same mindset?

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