As COVID-19 starts to slowly settle down, mask mandates are in the process of being lifted in most Canadian provinces, which begs the question, ‘What do students in Riverside Secondary think about the mask mandate being removed?’ To answer this question, nine students and two teachers ventured their opinions on the mandate getting lifted. Most people see this mandate removal as a very positive thing, yet there is a broad range of opinions ranging from people saying that it’s too early to remove masks, to others saying that they are perfectly comfortable with how things are playing out after the mask mandate got lifted.

Mask or no mask?

Out of everyone who had something to say on the issue, most students are in support of the mandate being lifted. There are a few students who aren’t fully in support of the lift, but they are neutral in the sense that they choose to still wear a mask but don’t mind others having their personal choice. Grade 11 student, Brendan Pellant, is happy that the mandate is gone and that we are now given a choice, but also believes it was lifted too early. “The Covid variants are getting more [contagious] but also weaker. So, I’d say in a variant or two, it may be as [harmful] as the flu, which at that point, masks wouldn’t matter,” said Pellant.

Several other students believe that the restrictions were lifted too late. “It’s too late; mandates should have been removed long ago; in fact, it should have never been enforced in the first place,” said James Zacharias, a student in grade 11. Another grade 12 student, Breanagh Mayo said, “We should have done this months ago; it didn’t do anything except hurt us. If we introduced our bodies to the virus earlier, then we all would have natural immunity instead of shots.”

Many students and teachers believe that it is good timing to lift the mask mandate. Riverside Science teachers, Heidy Tilsner and Melissa Jackson, both believe that it’s a very appropriate time for masks to be a personal choice instead of a mandate. “Vision is our number one sense, and expressions are so important in communication that it just makes a much richer experience for everyone, especially in the classroom, when you can see people’s faces,” said Tilsner. “I think that it benefits a lot of people that aren’t comfortable with wearing masks, so it gives everybody a good choice of what they are comfortable with,” said grade 11 Chelsey Whitmore.

Nearly all students expressed some form of joy towards the restriction change, mainly claiming that masks were an inconvenience and that now they feel more comfortable having the freedom to take it off. Most students feel that seeing the faces of others has influenced their learning, but whether that’s a positive or negative change differs between students.

Grade 11 students, Whitmore, Zacharias, Nick Blain, and Travis Buck, all had a positive outlook on seeing people’s faces. Many claiming that it makes communication much easier, as it’s easier to hear people and see their expressions. Two grade 11 students, Marcella Mahon and Maile Yamaguchi said that it was a shock to see everyone’s faces at first, but they adjusted and got used to it quickly. One grade 11 student, Ava Lundquister said, “I feel naked,” and expressed how it was a shock to finally see people’s faces and that it was unusual at times to have her face exposed. Most students claim to be comfortable with the new changes.

Overall, students are still adjusting and may not be 100% comfortable, especially around big crowds, but generally feel safe enough to go to school without a mask.