Should Masks Be Required in School?

Ramaz students without masks.

Ramaz students without masks.

If not now, then when? At what point will we finally be able to say goodbye to our masks? If one were to have asked me this question in March 2020, I would have responded with the obvious: “once most people are vaccinated”. The belief that mask mandates should die down once the majority of people are vaccinated is a belief that I still hold to this very day, a year and a half after the outbreak. There was a point when most people saw the vaccine as a finish line — there was a real, tangible end to the pandemic in sight. But here I am, sitting in class, a year and a half later, fully vaccinated, with a mask on my face. Scientifically, there’s no doubt that masks help stop the spread of Covid. However, I believe that the usefulness of masks is strictly situational. 

At the start of Covid, when numbers were high and there weren’t any vaccines available, masks were our only viable solution. They were strictly enforced and viewed as lifesavers because frankly, they were. But times have changed: we now have the vaccine readily available. The vaccine is the strongest weapon that we have to fight against Covid. Therefore, I believe that requiring all students to be vaccinated eliminates the need for Ramaz to continue on with its mask mandate. 

Ramaz, being a private institution, has the unique power of requiring its members to adhere to whichever rules are implemented. By implementing a vaccine mandate, the Ramaz community is taking additional precautions to minimize the risk of Covid spreading. Additionally, there is no ambiguity involved in the vaccination mandate: either a person is vaccinated or not. There is rigidity in a vaccine mandate, and ultimate security within a community that adheres to it. When the entire Ramaz Upper School is fully vaccinated, placing the institution in an ultimate state of security, masks are just unnecessary. At this time and place — a year and a half after the outbreak, in an institution whose members are fully vaccinated — what significant contribution do masks make in the fight against Covid? Not much, and especially not enough to keep this mask mandate going. If we don’t get rid of the mask mandate now, then when will we? 

At this point, it feels like we are all running a race that has no end, feeling tired and hopeless. In addition, the mask mandate itself is simply unenforceable. Ensuring that each students’ mask is above his or her nose proves an unachievable task. If I were to take a walk down the hallways of Ramaz, I estimate that at best 1 in every 50 students is wearing their masks correctly. There is simply no point in the admiration continuously  asking students to pull up their masks, because 10 seconds after that administrator walks away, the student will pull it right back down. Again, it is simply impossible to track if and how each and every student wears their mask. 

Speaking from personal experience, the only time I care to wear my mask correctly is when I am in the class of a teacher who strictly follows the mask mandate themselves. At this point, most students wear masks not for the sake of health, but for the sake of pleasing their teachers who value strict adherence to the mandate. The significance of the mask mandate has become hollow in the eyes of most Ramaz students, and therefore, I believe it is nothing but an annoying, dangling rule that should be abolished as soon as possible.