RRISD should have a real mask mandate

RRISD technically has a mask mandate, however it hasn’t been enforced, it’s more like a suggestion. Teachers and staff aren’t allowed to tell a student to wear a mask or not wear one, or give punishment for either decision. It’s not an effective mandate, and it should be.

In the context of Covid-19, masks are meant to prevent the spread of the virus by reducing the wearers contact with respiratory droplets, and preventing the wearers own droplets from spreading. Respiratory droplets are spread when someone talks, coughs, or sneezes. Several studies have shown that masks are most effective when all parties are wearing one, including infected and uninfected. 

The educational environment is more disrupted by students and staff constantly getting covid (and worries of a new lockdown) than by masks. Classmates and teachers are constantly absent because of covid spreading so quickly. Many states mandate masks for environments like school, since they slow the spread of covid. The district technically has a mask mandate, but it’s unenforced and just for show. The concept of masks has been polarizing, but the appropriate response to that isn’t pandering to both sides of the pro/anti mask debate. That’s a cop out. Enforcing a mask mandate will probably cause some controversy at first, but wearing a mask is, at worst, an inconvenience for most people. The atmosphere won’t be completely normal and undisturbed. People will adapt to the change, as they always have. The facts are that masks slow the spread of covid and help to keep students and staff safe. We need policy that keeps students and staff safe. 

Some might say, “Wearing a mask is a personal choice, if you don’t like it, wear your mask or go to online school.” But someone’s choice to wear a mask affects everyone around them. Since covid is still a pandemic that’s affecting schools, schools should prioritize everyone’s health and safety over a decision that does nothing but inconveniences opposers at worst. For those that have health reasons for not wearing a mask, there was a good solution for that that never went into effect. At the beginning of the year, there was a form for students and parents to fill out that would exempt anyone with sufficient medical reasons from wearing a mask, and there were supposed to be emails sent out with the list of students who were exempted. That list was never sent out to teachers. Secondly, unenrolling from RRISD public schools to an online school isn’t a good solution to lackluster campus safety.  This kind of “if you don’t like something about an institution, stop participating in said institution” rhetoric is meant to shut down suggestions or demands for change, but when it comes to big public institutions such as schools, it’s stupid because they’re meant to serve the people. They’re meant to change when needed, and right now schools need to change to have policies that prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

RRISD should have a real mask mandate because masks prevent the spread of covid, helping to keep students and staff safe and create a learning environment that isn’t constantly interrupted by people getting sick. This isn’t a lot to ask for, the district should stop pretending and actually follow its own policy.