Ending the mask mandate may improve Mountaineer communication

After 13 months of social distancing, virtual learning, and other mitigation strategies, the Regional took another step towards normalcy as they followed the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s guidelines and made wearing masks optional on Monday, February 28th.  

“Masks serve a purpose, but are a barrier to communication sometimes, so it is nice to see people talk again,” said assistant principal Michael Pratt. “Personally, I don’t have many concerns [about changing the mask mandate] given that people have choices [whether to wear a mask or not].”

According to Pratt, the removal of masks can help with classroom learning and student-teacher communication and interaction, despite causing some initial stress.

“Anytime there’s anything new, there is social anxiety, which will rise with the fear of the unknown,” said Pratt.

According to staff and students, the past two years have been exceptionally difficult and visual and spoken communication has paid the price.

“It was harder to get to know classes and people while not being able to fully see them,” said freshman Sarah Jaslowich.

Students also admit that wearing masks during first semester created a disconnect with their peers despite support through extra help and more in-class instruction.

“I feel that for some people, the mask stopped them from talking as much,” said sophomore Julie White.

In spite of the challenges of mask wearing, teachers said that being in-person aided in student-teacher communication and access to assistance.  

“More recently, students have come before and after school for extra help,” said English teacher Sarah Lefebvre.

According to other faculty members, the challenges of hybrid and virtual learning still linger.

“Now that we are fully in person, I see a lot of students having trouble maintaining quality classroom conversation and interaction,” said English teacher Sean Farrell. “The disruption of the past two years has stunted students’ communication with teachers.”

Despite these difficulties, students said they sense a return to pre-pandemic life proves near.

“It feels more normal and easier to communicate this year,” said junior Mia Piscitani. “Socially, it feels the same as before Covid.”