By Reeya Sharma
Art by Emily Smith
On Jan 31, 2022, St. Mary’s announced its decision to implement a mask-optional policy in which students and adults have a choice in wearing masks.
After the unsuccessful attempt earlier this year, SMS has decided to take another shot at saying goodbye to mask-wearing at school. Eight weeks in, many can happily say that they have not worn a mask since Jan. 31.
When asked why SMS lifted the mask mandate, Mr. Albert Throckmorton, Head of School, said,“The plan was always to go mask-optional when vaccination rates were high and transmission was low. We completed a risk-assessment; the transmission rates at St. Mary’s were extremely low. Most importantly, we were starting to see education deficits that were beginning to happen across the street, and we decided to be mask-optional for both the North and South campuses.”
Most students are comfortable with the new school policy. Sophomore Shelby Williams said, “Personally, I think it's great. The majority of the high school is vaccinated, so I do not see any reason why we should not be mask-optional.”
There is some discomfort seeing everyone’s faces again, though. Williams added, “It feels weird not wearing my mask though. I am definitely more conscious of what my face looks like.”
However, not everyone is in support of SMS’s decision. Astrid Balink (12) said, “I believe that the decision is a fast one. COVID-19 is still very transmissible. However, I do appreciate the choice to take my mask off in the classroom and elsewhere.”
Balink also offered an idea to make the mask-wearers of the school feel more at ease. She said, “I think there should be some designated places to wear masks just to make everyone more comfortable. It is very easy to be peer-pressured into not wearing a mask if everyone around you is not wearing one, and so I think it would be nice to have those designated spaces.”
When asked for his personal opinion on the mask-optional decision, Mr. Throckmorton said,“I guess I am ambivalent. My hope in every decision is for everyone to not only be willing but be joyful in support, but I understand that with a topic as personal as mask-wearing, there are a range of opinions out there. Personally, we are looking at different risk-assessments and retracting numbers everyday, so I feel and continue feeling safe about our policy.”
Lastly, he said, “For the folks for whom this policy has created more discomfort or greater risk than they personally would have liked, I am sorry. I take no pleasure in that.”
For & By Students
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