Maskless made effective immediately

Masking encouraged yet optional


Abby Keller

Junior Stefano Giovannelli walks down the stairs maskless March 10. On March 9, the School Board accepted a revision to policy 808, causing masking at schools to be optional.

Elena Ortiz Fishman

During a presentation to the School Board March 8, superintendent Astein Osei announced a shift to optional masking. 

In this proposal, the mandate will no longer be universally required. Policy 808 outlines requirements for safe mask-usage in public settings to reduce the exposure to COVID-19. According to Osei, the revision doesn’t remove policy 808, but it will make masking required only under specific circumstances including students in early childhood programs, those who tested positive or are showing symptoms for COVID-19 as well as staff in health services. 

Although the mandate is optional, Osei said Park will continue to offer resources and support for those who opt to persist wearing masks. 

“Certainly although masks would not be required, we are continuing to recommend and would support any students or staff members who desires to wear masks on a daily basis,” Osei said. “We’ll continue to have supplies of masks available at each of our sites to ensure those who want to continue to wear them, may have access.”

For now, face covering use will be optional unless 5% or more of the school tests positive for COVID-19. This will be monitored through a weekly COVID-19 report which will indicate whether or not a mask requirement is needed. 

For history teacher Scott Miller, he supports this choice as it aligns with the recommendations given by the CDC and the MDH

“As long as it’s within the CDC guidelines, I’m totally fine with it. I like the fact that they’re giving people a choice, and it seems like the students that I see today are open to that choice,”  Scott Miller said. “I was a little worried that maybe there would just be a small number of people that would be wearing a mask, and then they might catch some grief from the students who didn’t. So far I’m really optimistic and positive that people are being open to different choices.” 

In a case where Park sees a higher amount of positive cases than the allotted 5% threshold,  individual schools will be reverting to a required mask mandate for a two week period or until school can be safely resumed. 

As schools around the Twin Cities drop the mandate, many students, like sophomore Jersey Miller, said removing the mask mandate poses more risks, as it feels too rushed.  

“We should keep the mask mandate, I think that it’s not worth the risk to take it off. It’s just safer and we’re still in a pandemic,”  Jersey Miller said. “Thankfully, we’ve kind of passed the spike of Omicron, but it could definitely come back. It’d be a lot harder to re-add the mask mandate again, if we take it away. I think that would just make more complications.”

While going maskless was a sudden step, Scott Miller said it was an integral choice for progress moving forward, and returning to a sense of normalcy.

“At some point, we do have to get back to as much normal as possible, and I just see this as a as a positive step moving forward. Judging from talking to students, I think a lot of the kids at Park have gotten the vaccine, which is a positive step,” Scott Miller said. “It seems like the science is there to back it back up opening up with more freedom to choice about masks.

According to Jersey Miller, the pros of removal don’t outweigh the cons — staying consistent on masking will aid the reduction of cases.  

“The masks stop the spread of COVID —  we’re in a really good spot right now, I feel like we should try to keep ourselves there. It’s such a little thing, personally I don’t love wearing masks, but it’s just such a little thing and we’re just so used to it,” Jersey Miller said. “I feel like it’s just important to keep with the positive progression of getting through this.” 

Due to the variety of opinions surrounding the revision, assistant principal Jessica Busse said it’s important for students to have the freedom to decide for themselves. 

“It’s understandable to be apprehensive and cautious because we’ve been in a pandemic for (a while). I rewind back to 2020 when we were all gearing up for this pandemic and the fear and anxiety that even I felt when we were closing down schools and all that,” Busse said. “I think it’s relatively appropriate for some folks to be apprehensive about taking off their masks. This new change and revision and policy allows folks to make a decision that’s best for them.”