Why Masks Shouldn’t Be Optional in NJ Schools Post-Mandatory

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It almost feels like we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel for our kids.

Beginning March 7, New Jersey students will no longer have to dress up thanks to the lifting of mask requirements in New Jersey public schools.

This follows the recent spike in the Omicron variant. Since then, the numbers seem to have gotten to a point where we can relax mandates and drop the masks on our children for the first time in a long while (at the time of this writing).

And it’s wise to take your time before doing this. Not only because of the approaching warmer weather, but also to give schools some time to assess how to proceed.

My school district is doing just that. They send out surveys to see how parents feel about the upcoming changes in the state. One of the questions has to do with giving parents the option to have their children masked in school.

Before I share my thoughts on this, I just want to say that my family has followed mask requirements throughout the pandemic. I have an autoimmune disease that automatically puts me in the higher risk category. We also have relatives who fall into the higher risk category, so overall we were extra cautious.

Still, I disagree that schools have the masks optional for some. Now, that might seem surprising coming from someone who is automatically considered higher risk, but for that reason I think making masks optional in our public schools is a mistake.

No consistency

Making wearing a mask optional would only get confusing. What if some teachers want everyone to wear them and others don’t? Do all employees have to wear masks at all times, even when they don’t need them?

Also, we trust young children to keep an eye on this, so the risk of masks being lost is high. For older children this may not be a problem. But the younger ones tend to get confused.

girl in medical mask. On a white background, in a white T-shirt, copy space.

Valery_G

Some children will feel left out

So let’s say some parents want their kids to wear masks all day and others are perfectly happy without them. It is almost certain that some children will feel left out.

Think about it. What if your child is the only one in the classroom with a mask? I can almost promise you’ll feel like an outcast, forced to wear one all day.

Primary school bullying in the schoolyard

LSOphoto

It can lead to more bullying

Children can be cruel to one another, even those we think are the perfect angels. And it’s almost certain that if very few wear the masks, one or two of them will be singled out.

I know we want to think our kids are good, but it just doesn’t work that way. Children can be cruel at times, and yes, it’s usually just a small minority of children who cause problems. Unfortunately, it only takes one to ruin it for everyone.

Government plans education summit

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Children won’t wear them anyway

And then there’s the matter of not caring what the parents say. If a child notices that their friends are not wearing masks, they will most likely remove theirs. Kids want to feel like they belong, so it’s only natural that they want to do what everyone else is doing.

If most are now wearing masks, this scenario may not occur. But let’s face it, most kids and staff probably won’t wear them anymore. So why try to force it? You’ll just remove them anyway.

Children run through the hallway

Steve Frost, ThinkStock

Let the kids have some normality

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 wonder that the state decided to go this route.

time change clock cubes text word – 3d rendering

summer photos

Well, for some it will be scary at first and I understand that. I myself have to get used to the idea that our children are maskless again. But I know I don’t want my kids to feel like outcasts among their peers.

I still don’t know if my school district, or one statewide, will make mask wearing optional. I just think maybe it’s time to let go of the masks and give this thing we used to get “normal” with a try in our public schools.

Photo: natasaadzic

Photo: natasaadzic

So what about you? Should schools allow children and staff to wear masks once the mandate is lifted? Your voice matters and should be heard.

And then there’s the matter of the virtual. We won’t go into that here, but what about the possibility of a virtual option for parents who might be wary of it?

Virtual Learning

Photo of Thomas Park on Unsplash

Assuming your local school district decides to go all out and keep masks or do away with them altogether, would you be willing to allow a virtual option to get through the rest of the year?

Stop below and let us know.

And finally, we must not forget the children who use the bus. Masks are now mandatory on New Jersey school buses. Will this mandate end soon? Click here to read the full story.

School children sit on pillows and study books in a library

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