Mask mandate No More?


Camille Crawford, Staff Writer

In May of 2021, the mask mandate was finally lifted in the state of North Carolina. This became a great way to enter the summer with no facial restrictions and a fond remembrance of how life was before the pandemic. Unfortunately, as fast as it came, it left just as quickly. In late July, the local government reinstated the mask mandate with the emerging “Delta Variant” all over the nation. With this, the Winston Salem Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) administration made a temporary decision to keep the mask mandate until the first quarter of the school year ended. 

Since then, in-person school has resumed for the first time since Spring 2020. To no surprise, the majority of the student body has come back in person, masked up. Since the beginning of the school year, the board of education has met every week to calculate the amount of reported COVID-19 cases in each school. At R.J. Reynolds high school, the biggest peak of cases arose during the first and fifth week of school but since then the reports have been on a steady decline. Despite the decline, students are still in masks even after the completion of the first quarter. 

Principal Calvin Freeman offered his opinions on the up-and-coming school board meeting as well as the future of R.J Reynolds and masks. 

“The plan is still in place,” Mr. Freeman said. “ I don’t know how tonight’s vote is going to go but I cannot imagine them lifting the mandate altogether, I guess if they say it is optional, I think folks will still have the option whether they want to wear masks or not.” 

Though there is shown improvement in the absence of COVID cases, Mr. Freeman implies that the majority of the board is still concerned for the well-being of the student body. 

As predicted, the most recent school board meeting settled on delaying the re-entry to school with no masks. 

How the student body feels about the masks seems to be widely separated. Though some are advocating for keeping the mandate because of the continuous recognition of cases in our area, others are ready to be at school without the masks.  

“I am excited to lose the mask mandate because I like to see everyone’s faces around school,” senior Anna Davis said. 

The idea of no more masks has reminded students of “pre pandemic school” when people could recognize each other without a mask. However, some believe that the administration should uphold the regulations caused by the pandemic even though we are back in person.

“I’d like to keep the masks because we are still in a pandemic,” senior Madeline Frino said.

Although schools all over the county are working to bring classes back to how they were pre-pandemic, the student body is left questioning if the mask mandate will ever be removed even when cases have reached a safe low. 

The near future of R.J Reynolds seems to be unsure. However, Mr. Freeman includes a well-antiquated thought for the future of R.J Reynolds that includes the idea of the COVID vaccine. 

“You know some universities and colleges already require that their students are vaccinated, so you know that is a form of ‘please provide your vaccination records’ as you would your T-DAP or your tetanus,” Freeman said. 

With the increase of COVID vaccine intakes, Principal Freeman feels as if Reynolds should prepare for the steady popularity of the vaccine and try to include it into the near future for students to enroll, like universities and colleges are already doing. 

For the time being. The school board has recommended that students and staff stay cautious of the virus and conscious of others around us. 

What students can do to help lift the masking requirement sooner is to continue to be vigilant and take the virus seriously. Even if most people won’t get really sick, some will and it’s because of that fact that we should have a care for how we conduct ourselves,” board member, Alex Bohannon said. 

Along with the mask accommodations, the board envisions a long process to lifting the mask mandate, starting with vaccines.

“The first thing I would recommend is to talk to the adult or adults that are responsible for you at home about getting vaccinated,” Bohannon said. 

With the actions to lift the mandate still in place and our county-wide administration still working to make our school lives easier, soon we can lift the mask mandate.