Maskless in Late May

North Allegheny will change its mask-wearing policy on Wednesday, but the change could cause more harm than good.


photo by Quinn Volpe

NA students and staff who are fully vaccinated will be able to opt out of wearing a mask at school starting May 19th.

Quinn Volpe, Staff Writer

Editors’ note: This article was written and published before the North Allegheny School District announced Monday afternoon that it will resume requiring students and staff to wear masks for the remainder of the school year.

One question that has been asked seemingly incessantly during the pandemic is “When will we be able to take off our masks?”

Attempting to answer this question, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week that people who are fully vaccinated can now go maskless in most settings. Following this decision, the North Allegheny School District sent an email to parents saying that, starting May 19th, fully vaccinated students will no longer be required to wear face coverings to school if they can provide proof of their vaccination. On a form titled “Record of Student COVID-19 Vaccinations 2021,” parents are required to provide answers to questions like vaccine brand, date of vaccination, and a photographed proof of the vaccination.

The announcement only adds to the many inconsistencies of this year. The cohort-based hybrid model lasted longer than many of us expected. Additionally, social distancing and classroom rules have been far from consistent as the year has moved along.

Nevertheless, while no one should expect the administration to keep everything consistent in a time of uncertainty, it seems reasonable to ask for something as simple as a mask-wearing protocol to remain consistent throughout the few weeks that remain this year. Other than upholding a trend of inconsistency, this policy puts certain students at a disadvantage. 

Students who are allergic to the Pfizer vaccine — the only vaccine that Americans under 18 are allowed to receive  — or students whose religious affiliation prevents them from taking the vaccine will not be able to participate in this new mask-free policy. 

Additionally, students whose parents are opposed the vaccine, even if the student personally wants to get it, will also be unable to remove their mask at school if they wish to do so. 

Although the policy does place these students at a disadvantage in a way, it is important to note that, in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, students who are not vaccinated should keep their masks on because they are still capable of being infected and spreading the virus to others. 

Another problem with this new policy of allowing students to go mask-free after vaccination is that there is already a lack of optimal enforcement. While many staff members have done an excellent job when it comes to making sure students wear their masks, it is not uncommon to see students roaming through busy hallways with their masks partially or all the way down. These students continue to do this even after the school and district administrations make numerous announcements about safety guidelines. 

If the school already struggles with enforcing its current policy, it seems reasonable to assume that they will not be able to effectively handle this policy change, especially as the end of school year draws closer.  It’s hard to imagine that anyone will stop an unmasked student and check to make sure their parents submitted proof of vaccination to the district. 

And yet, here we are, a few weeks away from the end of the school year, notified just yesterday that some of our classmates and teachers may begin to unmask later this week.  Why not play it safer for just a few more weeks, especially in light of the CDC’s latest clarification that universal mask wearing and social distancing should still be enforced in schools?

Wearing a mask is not a difficult task, nor is it a political statement. The virus has not disappeared, and the U.S. is hardly in the clear.  If we hold out until the end of the school year, we’re likely to see a steeper drop in cases.  More of us will be fully vaccinated, and the normalcy that we’ve craved for over a year will at last be within reach.