Let Us Learn Safely
Let Us Learn Safely
After the RSU 22 school board meeting on August 18th, the board announced its decision of making masks optional for students. When many of my peers and I heard this news, we were shocked. After the initial shock started settling down, fear began to rise. The motivation of making masks optional is to return to as much normalcy as possible. But, when outbreaks and quarantines occur due to minimal masking, all normalcy will be lost.
From March to June of this year, a study was conducted by the ABC Science Collaborative to measure the effectiveness of masks in schools. 100 school districts and 14 charter schools in North Carolina were observed. Students and staff attended school full-time and with minimal distancing but were required to mask. The study concluded that “proper masking is the most effective mitigation strategy to prevent COVID-19 transmission in school” and that “with masking in place...full, in-person instruction...is appropriate for all grades and all schools.” The conclusions of this study would be promising, had the RSU 22 school board decided on making masks mandatory.
Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act requires that each board of education receiving COVID relief funds (ESSER funds) adopts a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction. An absence of mandatory masking is inconsistent with this act, therefore not only putting the school’s relief funding at risk, but the students, staff, and community in danger.
For decades, we have relied on science to show us how to move forward in the safest ways possible. In August of this year, the CDC issued science-based guidance recommending “universal indoor masking by all students, staff, teachers, and visitors...regardless of vaccination status.” Our governor has also issued similar guidance for schools in the state of Maine. Why now, when US case numbers are nearing the past peak of infection rates, are you deciding to make one of the most effective prevention methods optional? The school board’s duty is to act in the best interests of their students and staff. When it comes to a matter of health, the board’s decisions should follow the recommendations of public health experts and evidence from scientific findings. Making masks optional will only feed the pandemic that the world is trying to fight.
As students, we want a learning environment where we are not afraid. With masks being optional, we are scared to go to school. There are students, staff, and family members that fall in high-risk categories and for whom your decision may be fatal. As a community, we cannot make decisions based solely on personal preferences. We must protect those who do not have our privileges. We must ensure a safe learning environment for all students...one where they are not afraid of putting themselves or their loved ones at risk.
The students and community members who have signed below are urging for a change to be made in the current status of masking. With optional masking, outbreaks are inevitable. My classmates and I are prepared to follow the recommended, necessary precautions in order to avoid any more changes in our school experience. Are you?