Masks slow to disappear from campus with “mask optional” policy


Photo by Dylan Carvette '23

MASK OFF Mark Randolph teaching the English II Honors course. “Whenever change occurs, few people need to take a leadership role and then others will follow,” said Randolph. “I have made the personal decision to become one of those leaders so students do not feel uncomfortable to take their masks off.”

Dylan Carvette '23, Associate Editor, Print

Starting on March 13, 2020, Greenhills students and faculty went almost two years without seeing each other’s unmasked faces. But after 717 days of first being remote, then hybrid, then in person with masks. Some Greenhills community members went unmasked in the building for the first time on Feb. 28.

Greenhills announced Feb. 25 that the school would follow in other schools’ footsteps and switch over to a mask optional policy. But students’ reactions to the change were mixed.

Some students reacted positively to the change, welcoming the option to take masks off.

“I think that if the health commission says it’s alright and if cases stay low, it’s a good idea for [masking] to be an optional thing,” said Graeme Jagger ‘23, who chose to go maskless when the mask-optional rule went into effect.

Others, however, disagreed based on the fact that the pandemic is not over.

“I think retracting the masking requirement at school is an irresponsible decision by our administration as it is not in the best interest of the students and faculty,” said Nate Burke ‘23. Burke’s mother has lupus, an autoimmune disease, that has made her immunocompromised. “Students like me, who have at-risk family members, are especially at risk, and this decision feels like we are not being thought about by the school.” 

It’s not just families with immunocompromised members. Some households have elderly living with them or small children who are unable to receive the vaccine. 11th grade dean Janelle Sterling falls into this category as she has a 22-month old at home.

“Just a little nervous. I don’t know, the whole time we’ve been following the science behind it. I would trust it but be a little nervous,” Sterling said. “Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take it off, I would just be a little cautious.”

For the past two years, Greenhills has been following the county restrictions and making sure the school remains safe. Now they can safely switch their protocol in order to make learning more comfortable for some.

“States that have, from what I understand, removed the mask mandates often leave it up to schools or different counties to make decisions based on metrics,” said Head of Upper School, Quincy McLaughlin. “Usually what happens with Greenhills is that anytime the county has made a change or the state has made a change, we usually take a few days to have a conversation. Mr. Fayroian and I talk with the medical advisors and we have a conversation about what’s right for us at Greenhills.”

The divide between whether masks should stay on or come off isn’t black and white entirely. Some members of the community, like Leo Applegate ‘23, took a more neutral position.

“Currently, I’d say no to taking them off since my swim season is almost over, but yes after the season or after spring break,” said Applegate. 

Students weren’t the only ones with mixed opinions. Some teachers have expressed similarly uncertain opinions. 

“I was feeling very mixed,” said social studies teacher, Mackenzie Hess. “I feel like we are still in a place where masking makes sense in some ways, but on the other hand, there are places I go, like the gym, where I don’t wear a mask. I was feeling very torn on Sunday night, but decided to stick with the status quo on what we have been doing.”

But some students still can’t bring themselves to take their masks off, citing the ongoing danger of COVID-19.

“Masks coming off,” said Michael Nakashima ‘25, “is just kind of asking for COVID-19 to spread.”