While some students and teachers appear glad to be able to see their peers face to face after years of living in the “new normal,” others have lingering fears that the pandemic isn’t over and are making some questioning whether it’s truly safe to go back.
Although masks are no longer mandated for schools, the Ministry of Education announced on Aug. 8 that students and faculty members may choose to wear them for their own reasons. Whether for personal health reasons or simply out of habit, wearing a mask is still up to them.
“That [masking] helps you to stay healthier and not contract bacteria or viruses, I assume, right?” says Stacy Reid, a high school teacher at East York Collegiate Institute with more than 25 years of teaching experience. “I think it should be up to a person’s individual choice, their comfort level, and their situation,”
Reid revealed that while she’s glad to be back in school and interacting with her students and peers in person, by her estimate only about 10 per cent of the school is opting to wear a mask.
Reid also noted school principal John Bratina sometimes wears his masks around the school to show other students it’s okay to wear masks if they choose to do so.
Public Health Ontario has released a report stating “evidence suggests that mask-wearing in children likely reduces SARS-CoV-2 transmission and infection.”.
Marc Bougharios, a 21-year-old college graduate who attended his final school years through hybrid learning, admits he isn’t yet comfortable taking off his mask in most public settings such as malls and restaurants, considering it “a little too soon.”
If he were back in school, wearing a mask would be a safer alternative, because COVID-19 is not over, he warns.
“Things are getting better, but it doesn’t mean that the virus is gone,” Bougharios says. “Then again, I understand the desire to have masks off, but it feels safe to have one on for me.”