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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

To Mask or Not to Mask: WIS Lifts Mask Mandate

WIS+students+eating+lunch%2C+respecting+each+others+choices+on+weather+to+mask+or+not+to+mask.+%28William+Crawford%2C+Ava+Gonzalez%2C+Lila+Lefevre-Iwata+and+Jenna+Loescher-Clark%29+%0ACourtesy+of+Andrea+Brudniak+
WIS students eating lunch, respecting each others choices on weather to mask or not to mask. (William Crawford, Ava Gonzalez, Lila Lefevre-Iwata and Jenna Loescher-Clark) Courtesy of Andrea Brudniak

Almost exactly two years ago the WIS community transitioned into distance learning. Last week on March 9, Head of School Suzanna Jemsby announced the mask optional policy at the Tregaron campus, on the same day she made it official that the primary campus would also be lifting the mask mandate effective March 14. Students and faculty had an array of reactions.

“I expect these changes will be welcomed for some and a source of anxiety for others,” Jemsby wrote in the email sent to the school, acknowledging that the lifting of the mask mandate would provoke controversial and sensitive responses.

Though many in the WIS community think of this as positive news, students worry about the school’s instantaneous response to D.C. Health’s decision. 

“I feel like the fact that WIS lifted this mandate immediately after the city allowed them to makes it seem almost like they were only doing the precautions in the first place because the city made them, and not for the safety of the students,” freshman Madeleine Fine said.

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Another important factor that has been emphasized consistently is that members of the community should have respect for people’s choices when it comes to not wearing a mask or choosing to keep it on. “When there is a mask mandate, all individuals should adhere to mask wearing,” Upper School Math teacher Andrew Sopher said. “That said, now that the mandate is lifted, individuals have the right to wear a mask, or not, at their discretion. It’s important for everyone to respect each other’s choices.

The faculty stressed the importance of the students’ responses to their peers and their personal choices. “It’s an interesting conundrum, because it took so long for everybody to get accustomed to wearing masks and now we are going the other way, getting unaccustomed to wearing them,” Former WIS math teacher and now substitute teacher Mary Knautz said. 

Others said they have been following the crowd and basing their decisions off of what their peers were doing. “I played it by ear and just wanted to see how many people were and weren’t wearing masks,” sophomore Robert Heneghan said.

Students against the mask optional policy said that everyone should wear masks despite the option to be able to have them off, in order to provide a safer environment for staff and students. Some have chosen to prioritize their family members at home by keeping their masks on.

“My little brother is not vaccinated and has asthma, so I really don’t want to risk anything and bring anything home,” sophomore Sofia Braccialarghe said.

Some students worry about the future and how WIS will handle any further COVID outbreaks. “I think the removal of the mask mandate is good right now with how the levels are, but I’m worried that if it gets a lot worse the school is not going to be very proactive in changing back,” senior Ana Diaz-Young said. 

Diaz-Young argued that WIS tends to stay in their comfort zone and is not very adaptable.   Other students are wondering about future mask usage in a post-COVID world. “I can totally imagine myself putting on a mask in times like the flu season,” sophomore Alex Wiseman said. 

Students being accustomed to COVID regulations could possibly result in students wearing masks for other non COVID related reasons, decreasing the general spread of respiratory diseases.   

The removal of the mask mandate is also seen as an opportunity for a step in the right direction. After two years of not having regular contact with students and the community as a whole, it is seen as a relief and progress in getting life back to how it was before the pandemic. 

“Students and teachers need to be able to see each other’s facial expressions,” school nurse Molly Foa said.” “It’s been a long two years.”

By Andrea Brudniak-Berrocal

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Andrea Brudniak-Berrocal, Print Publications Editor/MS News Adviser

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