Face Coverings On Campus: CAHS Responds to Mask Mandate

Photo+by+Mika+Baumeister+on+Unsplash.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash.

Editorial Board

While we’re back on campus this year, things look a bit different. California mask mandates mean that CAHS has had to return to school in face coverings. According to the Escondido Unified High School District, face coverings are required, regardless of vaccination status, while indoors at K-12 schools and are recommended— but not required— outside.

The Crimson staff sent out an optional and anonymous survey to the student body asking about how well they thought mask protocols were being followed and enforced. We received 632 student responses. 

The majority of students who responded thought that the student body was mostly following the mask protocols correctly, with 76.2% of responses saying yes or mostly yes.

Results from the anonymous survey sent out by the Crimson Staff.

61.1% of students also thought that the staff was adequately enforcing the mask protocols. “They are already doing a good job and for the people that are not respecting the rules, it’s not the staff’s fault!” one student responded.

Results from the anonymous survey sent out by the Crimson Staff.

 “I don’t think there’s anything better than what they are doing now. Nothing seems too harmful,” another student responded. 

“The staff are doing as much as possible to get students to wear masks.  It’s mostly a matter of whether students want to comply at this point.”

“We’re reminding students over and over sometimes, especially in the hallways,” Principal Dana Moen said. “I spoke to students about it at the first assembly. … I don’t enjoy bringing it up weekly, but in my Monday message that I put out, … I always try to have a health update. And usually I’m talking about the strategies to keep COVID off our campus.” 

However, some students have expressed concern about their safety in response to the student body’s compliance with the mask mandates. 31.8% of students who responded said their feeling of safety was impacted by the general compliance of the school. “There are some staff members who turn a blind eye when there are specific students not wearing their masks correctly. I think they should continue to enforce it and be more strict about it, especially if it is a repeated offense. There were some kids in my classes who were asked at least five times during class to pull their masks up, but now the teachers seem like they can’t be bothered to ask anymore. I think that some of the students need to take it more seriously because it makes [me] and others feel unsafe when they aren’t wearing their masks correctly,” one student responded. 

Results from the anonymous survey sent out by the Crimson Staff.

To the students who feel unsafe attending school, Mr. Moen expressed the ability to learn from home. “There are some [students] right now that … don’t feel safe and they feel like the numbers are too high in our community or even our school, so there’s some [who] have chosen to learn from home. …  My advice to them would be to follow all the recommendations that have been given, such as [wearing] masks indoors. I know some would wear a mask outdoors when they’re around people, which is good. The medical community has definitely encouraged everyone to get vaccinated, so that’s going to help those that are worried about it,” Mr. Moen said.

Mr. Moen also offered the same option of learning from home to students who aren’t willing to wear masks in class. “We’ve made the decision so far this year, not to zoom, right? So you might not be getting the exact same level [of learning] that you got last year when everybody was zooming. …  But we’ve made it super clear to teachers to provide everything that a student needs for their education in Schoology so they can do it asynchronously: the lesson plan, the assignments, the material, the resources. So whether a student doesn’t feel comfortable wearing a mask, … or they don’t feel comfortable being in school because they’re worried about disease, about sickness, either students should be able to stay home for a time period,” Mr. Moen said.

One of the common complaints by concerned students was a lack of proper mask-wearing from their peers as well as enforcement by staff. “I often see students taking their masks off for long periods of time without teachers doing anything. Even when they do, they give them ‘warnings.’ I have never seen a single student given actual consequences for their actions. I understand that we are children and bound to make mistakes. However, the amount of slack some of these students are getting is crazy. A student that I know has been warned to put his mask up three times every day for the past five weeks. He has not once been given any sort of consequence, let alone being suspended from school for two days. I know times are tough and it may be hard to remember sometimes, but if students can manage to remember everything they see on social media and use a complicated smartphone, then they can remember to keep their mask over their nose and mouth,” one student responded. 

“I would like to say that the answer for most students [following protocols correctly] is yes. … I believe the best about our students and my hope is—  and from what I witnessed in the hallways and when I go in classrooms— the vast majority, I believe, are complying with the mask mandate,” Mr. Moen said.

Several students wrote saying they wished for more enforcement of the mask protocols from the staff. “I think that the teachers should have mask checks more often.  During the passing periods, students seem to leave their noses uncovered, but when a staff approaches, they put it back up.  I know it’s not possible to have every single person following the rules, but staff should check the hallways more often,” one student responded. 

“I get that it’s harder to enforce things in the hallways, but there are people that will go into classes without masks on and in the three classes where this has happened, … only one teacher has regularly made sure kids were wearing their masks above their noses,” another student responded. 

The school’s policy for students who have been given multiple reminders to follow the Health & Safety policies is that they “will be required to complete their learning from home for the remainder of that school day and the following day.”

“It starts with reminders. And then to get more specific, if somebody continues to not comply, we have a conversation with that student. We’re trying to avoid confrontations during class, so we try to have a private conversation with that student and then often with their parents as well,” Mr. Moen said. 

 Another concern brought up by students is their peers either wearing masks made out of mesh materials, or disposable masks with the liners ripped out of them. “I would like to see harsher consequences for those who do not comply with the protocols. Especially when it comes to mesh masks, students are not being called out as much as they should be,” one student responded.

 “Please make sure students are wearing masks above their noses and that they aren’t ripping the liner out of disposable masks,” another student responded. 

“No mesh [masks are allowed]. Gaiters, I believe, are allowed. I think anything that’s full cloth is allowed,” Mr. Moen said. According to the CDC, gaiters are allowed as a proper mask, but they should be made of two layers of fabric. “Here’s what I tell students that don’t believe in masks. … They want to refuse. They want to make a statement and they don’t want to wear a mask. And they’re sending me research …  on why it doesn’t work. Here’s my question about what if it does work? I’m not going to sit here and convince you it works, but what if it does? What if, by you wearing a real mask versus a mesh mask, what if that kept somebody from getting sick and kept their family member from getting sick? Why not do it right? Also, I’d say the same thing for [masks over] the nose.”

On the opposite side of the argument, some students commented on wishing for the mask protocols to be loosened or removed completely. “I would like to see [the mask protocols] gone completely. Administration has also cracked down way too hard on it. There’s no reason they should be getting in students’ faces about this,” one student responded. Mr. Moen’s message to these students is to concentrate on the positives of this school year. 

“Focus on all of the amazing opportunities and positive opportunities you have as a student this school year that the last two years didn’t have. Focus on the positives. Focus on the fact that we get to be together. Focus on the fact that you aren’t being asked to wear a mask outside. Focus on the fact that you’re not being asked to distance. Focus on the fact that we are planning a homecoming for you. Focus on the fact that you have your after-school activities going. Focus on all of those things, because whether you like it or not, whether you think [masks are] effective or not, putting a piece of cloth on your face— it’s an inconvenience, but … from a legal perspective, it’s what’s allowing us to be back,” Mr. Moen said.

Mr. Moen also asked students who don’t want to follow mask protocols to also focus on what they can control. “I learned a long time ago in life that when I try to focus on the things that I don’t have control over … I’m miserable. … I’m here to focus on the things that I have the power to control when it comes to masks. The only thing I can control is [that] I’m going to encourage you to do the right thing and to wear [a mask] because that’s my job to do,” Mr. Moen said. “It’s just what we have to do for now and [you should] focus on what you can control. Because if you focus on what you have control over, you’re going to be more productive. You’re going to be happier. You’re going to have more joy.”