Mask and COVID-19: The Trademark of the School Year

Kelli Coleman, Editor in Chief

When Stafford County Public Schools decided to send students and teachers back with masks, there were no exceptions included in that. Meaning everyone had to wear a mask over their nose and mouth, but walking through the hallways, no one would know that.

On ‘Main Street’, masks are a suggestion. There are students with masks not covering their nose, some just below their upper lip, and the real daredevils just under their chin. One major issue with the mask regulation is that the staff is seeing students wear their masks in these unconventional ways and doing virtually nothing about it. Occasionally, some adults will yell out “mask up” or “please put your mask on”, but generally the mask regulation is relatively lax. 

According to the CDC, “All schools should implement and layer prevention strategies and should prioritize universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing.” If the CDC is saying that masks and social distancing are the solutions, then we should be attempting to implement them as much as possible.  

Teachers in the classroom are also offenders when it comes to mask policies. Most complain about how hard it is to teach with a mask on, which is understandable; wearing a mask all day is not the ideal way to teach, but it is the ideal way to keep the student body and the teachers safe. Many will remove their mask to take a drink of water or take a bite of their snack, which is not the end of the world, but some never put the mask back on. The mask-less offenders will continue on teaching as if we are not in a global pandemic.

Social distancing is also another crucial mitigation plan that sadly does not exist at Forge, and that is not entirely the school’s fault. With a population of just about 2,100, the school does not have enough hallway space to stay six feet apart. Students are quite literally packed like sardines when transitioning from class to class, and the only advice given out is to use the side stairwells. While the advice may work for the upperclassmen who have actually had in-person classes, the underclassmen are still figuring out how to navigate the stairway system. 

Scarce mask regulation and minimal social distancing lead to one outcome: COVID-19, the one thing that seemed to halt the rotation of Earth. The virus is not an unknown issue to the Stafford County area, and it is not going away. Our county averages forty-eight cases a day according to the Washington Post. The likelihood of a student or teacher contracting the virus is very likely as administrators have sent out emails to the student body regarding COVID-19 cases within the schools.

​​Although recent reports show that COVID-19 cases in our county are actively dropping, that does not mean Stafford is out of the woods yet. On Wednesday, Oct. 6th, administrators sent out a mass email to all students, explaining that the football game against North Stafford high school would be postponed due to “circumstances beyond our control.” It is suspected that the circumstances are COVID-19 infections of North Stafford players. This is not the first mass email that the county has sent out regarding football cancellations; last month Brooke Point High School released a tweet using the same statement of “circumstances beyond our control.” 

Contact tracing protocol remains an uphill battle at our school. The student body is kept at arm’s length when it comes to knowing whether a classmate or friend has contracted the virus. It is frustrating to know that the student body will only be informed that a person has COVID-19 if that person ate lunch with you. The rationale behind this is because of the CDC’s notion that if a person is mask-less and less than six feet apart for longer than fifteen minutes they may have been exposed to the virus. If that person is just in a class or a hallway buddy, the school is not obligated to inform anyone. The biggest heads up as far as knowing if a classmate has the virus or has been in close contact with someone who has it is the Google Meet ding heard before each class. So, it is the student’s responsibility of informing others, whether it be through a text or phone call, just to let people know. 

Our school has a duty to keep the student body safe, and that is why parents agreed to allow their children to return to in-person classes. As students, we also have to take responsibility and accountability for the factors that we can control.

No one wants another year like 2020, so in order to ensure that, wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, and social distance as much as possible. As a school, we have to do a better job implementing the mitigation strategies of COVID-19.