BOE decision to remove mask mandate good; timing wrong


Lasirra Hines, Opinions Editor

In a six-to-one vote, the motion to remove the mask mandate passed the USD 383 Board of Education based on the recommendation of the Medical Advisory Board last Wednesday. The motion will go into effect Nov. 1 and continue through Nov. 19, when the board will evaluate COVID cases over that time and revisit the mandate.

Although The Mentor Editorial Board understands the board’s decision based on the advice of the Medical Advisory Board, they could have chosen a better time, such as near the end of the school year, and they must not hesitate to reverse their decision if we see a rise in cases.

As time progresses, it is clear that there will be an endpoint of the masks, when that will be is unknown. It is understood that no matter when we decide to put an end to it, there is going to be a risk regardless.

The timing of the decision is something to consider. Moving into winter, we are going to be in the cold and flu season. To set up an experiment that makes the masks optional that has the possibility of continuing during cold and flu season doesn’t seem logical.

It would have been better if the board were to do this near the end of the school year, when we are out of cold and flu season, COVID cases have went down and maybe the state hasn’t barred us from doing online school so that if it does go bad, we can shut down and regroup. At this moment, we are unable to shut down in case of another spike due to the law in Kansas prohibiting it.

A question brought up brings the idea of “Do we keep masks for the winter season after this year?” and it seems logical to do so. During the winter season, it would be beneficial to have masks so as to reduce the number of students that get sick. 

We can go back to masks quickly if necessary and it is important we don’t hesitate to do so. We are able to transition in and out of masks. They aren’t hurting our education, so it shouldn’t be difficult to reinstate them.

A counter to the board’s decision was the idea of “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” The masks work, they have been proven to work, and they aren’t causing harm. It doesn’t make much sense to take away something that isn’t hurting us and surely seems to be helping, especially as we move into winter.

As the motion goes into effect, we also have to evaluate student responses. There is going to be a divide in those who will wear masks and those who won’t. The Medical Advisory Board did say that we don’t need to be wearing them, with the strong recommendation of getting vaccinated. Due to the suggestion from the board, there can’t be judgment from either side as it goes with what the doctors and medical professionals are saying. If somebody is vaccinated, at this point it is safe enough for them to take off their masks, and there shouldn’t be judgment of those people who are making a decision that is sound logic. Unvaccinated people are a separate situation, and the Editorial Board would like to advise those who are able to get vaccinated to do so, as it is helping people and helping reduce cases.

There needs to be an increase in compassion and understanding of those who do prefer to wear the masks. This also includes teachers. There are teachers, and students, who are immunocompromised or have family members that are and they don’t want to risk the possibility of infecting them. Teachers should be able to tell their students, “Please wear a mask in my classroom” or explain their situation to the students. 

General compassion should be shown to teachers and peers. If there is someone sitting next to you who is worried about the situation or is immunocompromised, don’t be the person who doesn’t wear a mask and makes them uncomfortable. This is a time to advise students to pay attention to those around them and, even if they don’t want to wear one or have their own beliefs about them, just wear one to make a small accommodation for those around them. It is really all about compassion towards people in our school.

The board’s decision should be subject to change, and it is apparent that the timing wasn’t established with cold and flu season in mind. Placing it farther along in the year, after cold and flu season, would’ve been a much better decision.

Students, in order for this motion to extend past those three weeks, keep up with washing your hands and wearing a mask if you don’t feel well. To prevent the cases from going up, there needs to be a priority in hygiene, cleanliness and getting vaccinated.