Walls Community Weighs Masking as New School Year Begins
Credits: Darya Filippova
Wearing a mask became optional for DCPS students on March 16. At first, the majority of the Walls student body kept their masks on, with only a few students deciding to remove masks. Many students believed that it was too early to end the mandate, while others had become accustomed to masking. As the year was coming to an end, increasing numbers of students removed their masks.
After school resumed in August, most of the Walls population was unmasked. However, many individuals still stuck to their protocol. Across the school, every individual had their own reasons for unmasking or masking depending on what they felt comfortable with.
Students commonly took into account whether they posed a safety risk to their peers and others around them when deciding whether to unmask. “I know that I am vaccinated and so is everyone else around me,” said freshman Campbell Tiller. “I’m positive that the people around me will take a COVID test if they don’t feel well.”
One sophomore, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed. “If everyone is required to be vaccinated then I know we are all somewhat protected, if not completely protected,” they said.
“I made the decision to unmask based on what other people in the building did,” the sophomore said. “I was fine with taking my mask off, but I wanted to make sure a majority of the Walls community was okay with it too.”
Others reached the opposite conclusion about risk to others. One junior who asked to remain anonymous said that they are still masked because they want to keep their immunocompromised friends and family safe.
Some students appreciated masks because they could disguise parts of students’ faces they preferred not be seen. The same junior said that “wearing a mask has added another layer of comfort in myself that over time has been hard to remove.”
Sometimes students’ decisions change day-to-day. “Sometimes I wear a mask if others around me are sick, or if I've been coughing a lot,” sophomore Faith Nesbeth said. “If no one is sick or if I'm too hot, then I take it off, but for the most part, I keep one with me just in case.”
Staff at Walls have also weighed the decision of whether to remove their masks. Everett Catlin, one of the Spanish teachers, said, “The reason I went unmasked was because it was very difficult for me to speak with the mask on and even more difficult to teach Spanish with the mask on in a way so that my students could understand what I'm saying.”
Whether for safety concerns, self confidence boosts, or conflicting with teaching styles, the students and staff at Walls have done what they think is right when it comes to masking.