Set an Example! Wearing a Mask is Mandatory

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Brandy Kehl

Mr. Cornell gives a great example of how to properly wear a mask.

I walk into school and greet a member of staff at the door. We share the pleasantries of “good morning,” and then I take a moment to politely remind him that masks are meant to be worn over the nose. He grows noticeably uncomfortable, and comes up with an excuse. I blink a few times, shocked at his refusal. I remind him of the CDC guidelines and go to class, but I feel a pit in my stomach as I realize that my mention won’t make a difference.

I think of my mom, who just dropped me off. She’s immunocompromised and the only income for my household at the moment. If I bring the virus home to her, our worlds could be flipped upside down overnight. If this can be prevented from just wearing a mask correctly, isn’t that a small price to pay?
Attending in-person school is a choice for me, but it isn’t for so many students at Wyoming High School. Learning disabilities, household situations, and numerous other causes keep students from being able to learn remotely, even if it is safer.
The more I thought about this, the more frustrated I got as I passed by classrooms with teachers not wearing their masks correctly. Finally, I scheduled an interview with Mr. Baumbach to discuss what has been happening at Wyoming High School.

On the CDC website, it is stated multiple times that wearing your mask under your nose is ineffective in helping to prevent the spread of the virus. Various news sources have also revealed research that suggests that wearing your mask under your nose defeats the purpose of wearing it at all.
Mr. Baumbach confirmed that the expectation is that students and staff alike wear their mask all day and every day over their mouth and nose. “We’re modeling this for students as well, and it’s important,” he said. I asked him what a student should do if they notice a staff member continuously wearing their mask incorrectly, and he responded that the best course of action would be to “schedule a meeting outside of a classroom session” before or after classes to discuss with the individual. If another student is the one wearing their mask incorrectly, students are also welcome to discuss with their teacher. If someone feels that their concerns are being dismissed, Mr. Baumbach welcomes students to “come to the office to have a conversation with an administrator.”
“I want us to stay in session,” the principal said, “I believe we can be in school safely when we follow the protocols.”

Students do have a right to be concerned about their safety, especially with how Wyoming Public Schools had shown support for the “Let Them Play” movement. Mr. Baumbach confirmed that with plans to resume sports, there are no additional precautions in place other than players wearing masks. “I am aware that there are risks involved in this,” he said. Regarding the players, he continued on to say that “they have to monitor themselves for symptoms, they gotta take care of themselves when they’re out in the public, they have to wash their hands.”

“We take risks everyday, and I’m not saying that people’s lives aren’t important… If a student or a family isn’t comfortable coming to school, then they have that option of staying home,” he said. Unfortunately, many students don’t have that option, due to either learning complications or their home situation.

I admitted that lately, school hadn’t felt like a safe place for me and some of my peers, and he apologized sincerely. “We think about the social and emotional health of our students. We want them to feel well. We want them to feel safe to participate in school, and if they don’t, I encourage them to have conversations with the adults and we can troubleshoot why they don’t feel safe for that. I also want students and staff to know that everyday we step outside of our homes, we take risks,” Mr. Baumbach said, “There are risks associated with living.”
It’s unfortunate that, in school, a place where students should always feel safe, we are being told to ask ourselves, “What’s the level of risk I’m willing to assume in order to be in school?” For many students, it is not our choice to attend school in-person everyday, but Mr. Baumbach said, “There’s that balance, and I guess I would ask students to think about that, too.”

“The reason we wear these,” Mr. Baumbach said, referencing masks, “is to protect ourselves, but also to protect others.” Wyoming High School is asking students and staff alike to wear a mask and social distance to keep everyone as safe as possible. To close the interview, the principal said, “The best education we can provide is gonna be in-person education.”

During this pandemic, there are very few things that are in our control. Where we go and what we do has been limited beyond anything we could have expected a year ago. What you can control, though, is how you protect yourself and those around you.

Today, I walked into school and greeted the same member of staff at the door and smiled. No noses in sight.