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Optional masks feel freeing

FRI. | 03-04-22 | OPINION

     A Pitt County School Board meeting on Monday, Feb. 7, decided on a drastic change for not only Rose, but all Pitt County schools. The decision being that on Tuesday, Feb. 15, all public schools would do away with the mask mandate, making them optional. 

     The issue of the mask mandate was first brought up by multiple speakers during the public expression portion of the meeting. Despite the hundreds of thousands of opinions individuals have had on COVID, during this time all of the parental speakers agreed on the argument that the mask mandate should end. When listening to these perspectives provided during the public expression section of the meeting, many claims made by those

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Graphic by Cecelia Batton

promoting optional mask wearing grabbed my attention. 

     When listening to the lecture made by Alex Zoldas, a member of Pitt County’s community, my point of view changed entirely on how deeply masks affect us. As someone who is hearing impaired and wears hearing aids, Zoldas explained how masks make conversing with others much more difficult. I personally have never thought about how being able to visually see what movements the mouth makes is critical to lip reading. Having to wear masks for such a large amount of the day can prevent those with hearing disabilities from being able to connect with others. Zoldas also mentioned how most facial expressions cannot be seen. Emotions are so important within our day to day life, and seeing how much of a disadvantage not being able to read them gives to those who are hearing impaired proves that no masks could be beneficial to many people. 

     There were also two more speeches given that intrigued me, one being from a Pitt County Schools parent, Ashley Pruitt. Pruitt’s metaphor comparing masks to “ “the equivalent of trying to stop a mosquito from flying through a chain-link fence,” made me consider the enormously small size of the virus and how effective a mask could really be. Without them being enforced, I probably wouldn’t have much experience using them.

     Next, a student from D.H. Conley presented a story about how she was sent home for her refusal to wear a mask but sees kids, and even some teachers, in school wearing their mask improperly or not at all. The student also implied that she felt most teachers did not even believe in the mask mandate but just enforced it because the school tells them so. Although I don’t share all of their feelings, I also know all too well what it is like seeing pieces of cloth under the faces of students as though it is just there as a chin accessory. I am not saying teachers don’t care about our safety or didn’t enforce the mandate, but I can see how tired they might be of having to reiterate themselves every day for students to pull up their masks. 

     Finally, after the public expression and several other segments, the board voted on an update to the mask mandate. This update was to hold another vote on if Pitt County Schools was to go mask optional. In the beginning, many board members were agreeable with this, as was I. The vote ended up being 7-1, giving students the opportunity to be rid of masks while they are learning. I am satisfied with this ruling because even though our world may never go back to normal, this is one step in the right direction.

     After the mandate was lifted and masks were made optional at Rose, it is fair to say the impact was positive. Even though most people choosing to remain masked still wear them improperly, being able to wear it is their right. Students and faculty now have the choice to wear or not wear a mask, instead of one or the other being enforced. I think giving people the option to do either was the best decision and is the closest compromise to making everyone happy.

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