Why masks shouldn’t be optional in NJ schools after mandate is lifted (Opinion)
It almost feels like we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel for our children.
As of March 7, New Jersey students will no longer be required to mask up thanks to the lifting of mask requirements in New Jersey's public schools.
This, coming on the heels of the recent spike from the omicron variant. Since then, numbers seem to be at a point where we can relax the mandates and, for the first time in a long time, drop the masks for our children (that, as of the date of this article).
And providing time before implementing this is smart. Not just because of the approaching warmer weather, but also to give schools some time to assess how to go forward.
My school district is doing just that. They're sending out surveys to see how parents feel about the upcoming changes within the state. One of the questions has to do with giving parents the option to have their kids masked while in school.
Before I share my thoughts on this, let me just say my family has been following mask mandates throughout the pandemic. I have an autoimmune condition that automatically places me in the higher risk category. We also have relatives who fall into the higher risk category, so we've been extra cautious overall.
With that said, I don't agree with schools having the masks be optional for some. Now that may seem surprising coming from someone who's automatically considered a higher risk, but here's why I feel making masks optional in our public schools would be a mistake.
Making mask-wearing optional would just get confusing. What if some teachers want everyone to wear them and others don't? Will all staff have to have masks at any given time even regardless if they don't need them?
Plus, we're trusting young children to keep track of this, so the potential of masks getting lost is high. Perhaps for older kids, this won't be a problem. But the younger ones are more likely to get confused.
Some kids will feel left out
So let's say some parents want their children to keep masks on throughout the day, and others are perfectly happy without them. It's almost a sure bet some kids will feel left out.
Think about this. What if your kid is the only one with a mask in the classroom? I can almost promise they'll feel like an outcast being forced to wear one throughout the day.
It may lead to more bullying
Kids can be cruel to one another, even the ones we consider the perfect angels. And it's almost certain that if very few have the masks on that one or two of them will be singled out.
I know we want to think of our children as well-behaved, but that's just not how it works. Kids at times can be cruel, and yes, it's usually only a small minority of children that are causing problems. Unfortunately, it only takes one to ruin it for all.
Kids won't wear them anyway
And then there's the matter of not caring what parents say. If a kid notices their friends aren't wearing masks, then they're most likely going to remove theirs. Kids want to feel like they belong, so it's only natural they'll want to do what everyone else is doing.
Now if most are wearing masks, then this scenario may not occur. But let's be real, most of the children and staff probably won't have them on anymore. So why try to force it? They'll just remove them anyway.
Let the kids have some normalcy
It's been so long since we last experienced normalcy in our public schools. The fact that our numbers are where they are, in the heart of winter, is very telling. So it's no surprise the state has decided to go in this direction.
Now yes, it's going to be scary at first for some, and I get that. I myself have to get used to the idea of our kids being maskless once again. But I know I'd rather not have my children feel like outcasts among their peers.
I still don't know if my school district, or any across the state, will make mask-wearing optional. It's just my opinion that perhaps, it's time to let go of the masks and give this thing we used to go 'normal' a try at our public schools.
So what about you? Should schools make it an option for kids and staff to wear masks once the mandate is lifted? Your voice matters and should also be heard.
And then there's the matter of virtual. We're not going to dive into it here, but what about the possibility of a virtual option for parents who might still be on the fence with this?
Assuming your local school district decides to go all-in and keep masks, or scrap them altogether, would you be willing to allow a virtual option to get through the remainder of the year?
Sound out below and let us know.
And lastly, we can't forget about kids that use the bus. As of now, masks will remain a requirement on New Jersey's school busses. Will that mandate end anytime soon? Click here to check out the full story.