Mask mandate leaves social impact on students


Despite a difference in the interpretation of the mask mandate policy, students are still able to communicate and interact with one another as they did before COVID-19. Juniors Jory Richardson and Mia Pilot talk during lunch.

Alannah Edwards

While the removal of the mask mandate for Atlanta Public Schools encouraged a return to normalcy, social pressures have arisen for students and staff. The question of when and where masks should be worn leave many wondering what the appropriate response is to these new protocols. 

“The first few days I was wearing a mask and taking it off constantly to try and test the waters,” AP Language teacher Kate Carter said. “I was ready to take my mask off, but I also didn’t want to stress out students who felt personally at risk or vulnerable.”

Although masks are optional, there are many students determined to conform to the former mandate. Many students continued to feel at risk of spreading COVID-19 and felt  that it was too soon to remove protective protocols.

“Just because the mask mandate has been lifted doesn’t mean COVID-19 is gone,” freshman Solunne Fedovskiy said. “They lifted the mandate too soon. It constantly happens. We take away the mandate then a new spike comes out of ‘nowhere’ and more cases show up; It’s like an endless cycle. If we keep doing this COVID-19 is never going to go away.”

While some students feel they should wear a mask for their safety and for the safety of those around them, others continue to do so because it has become a normal and comfortable part of their lives.

“I mostly wear my mask because I’m so used to it,” senior Annie Robinson said. “I know that it’s safe now to take it off, but I’m so used to keeping it on.  It makes me feel secure and safer in general. I feel the most comfortable [taking it off] when I’m outside or spaced out from other students.”

Students are given the freedom to choose when to wear their mask, yet many feel the time to wear a mask is circumstantial. Most students agree that the factors determining when the appropriate time is to remove or wear a mask heavily depends on who they are surrounded by. 

“There is definitely a social aspect,” Robinson said. “If I’m at a table and nobody has their mask on, then I’m more likely to take it off for that period of time. If I’m with people that wear it, I keep it on to go with whatever looks normal.”

Some students also note whether their teacher is wearing a mask or not. This is used as a determining factor to see if masking-up is a socially-acceptable option. 

“I feel like it’s a respectful thing to wear a mask if your teacher is,” junior Olivia Wilson said. “I can tell when teachers are strict about it, but can’t enforce anything, so I will wear it then.”

With concern for the safety of their students, several teachers have continued to wear their mask despite the gradual decrease of COVID-19 cases. 

“I choose to wear a mask because I don’t know who in my classroom is immuno-compromised, so I do it out of respect for my students,” AP Government teacher Susan Salvesen said. “I have mixed feelings about the removal of the mandate, although the COVID-19 numbers have been on a downward trend. It’s important to return to normal, which would make the classroom experience more enjoyable.”

To create a more comfortable classroom environment, Carter initiates conversations between her students to discourage judgment surrounding the removal of the mandate. 

“Everyone was kind and calm whenever I brought up the topic of masks,” Carter said. “Nobody has been judgmental of me, and I ask the students not to judge each other. It’s important to be kind and to do whatever everybody’s comfortable with.”

With the removal of masks comes a new level of connectivity between teachers and students. 

“I feel really happy to see faces and to have my mask off,” Carter said. “I was extraordinarily grateful that APS kept the mask mandate as long as they did. I would not have been comfortable during the majority of this school year if the mask mandate had been optional, but I appreciate that they lifted it when they did.”