District Rescinds Mask Mandate for Secondary Campuses, All Campuses After Semester Break

On+Wednesday%2C+November+3rd%2C+Richardson+ISD%E2%80%99s+updated+mask+policy+went+into+effect+for+junior+high+and+high+schools+in+the+district.+Face+masks+are+now+encouraged+but+optional+for+all+students+and+staff+after+the+downward+trend+in+active+COVID-19+cases+in+RISD+schools.

On Wednesday, November 3rd, Richardson ISD’s updated mask policy went into effect for junior high and high schools in the district. Face masks are now encouraged but optional for all students and staff after the downward trend in active COVID-19 cases in RISD schools.

Abigail Smith

On Wednesday, November 3rd, Richardson ISD’s updated mask policy went into effect for junior high and high schools in the district. Face masks are now encouraged but optional for all students and staff after the downward trend in active COVID-19 cases in RISD schools.

The lifting of the mask mandate marks a significant milestone in the district’s progress over the past few years – active cases of COVID are currently one-seventh of what they were during their peak in early September, according to the Superintendent.

The district released an update video on October 28th explaining that the approval of a vaccine for elementary-aged children was a factor in the decision.

“If all goes as expected, elementary students ages 5-11 could be fully vaccinated by winter break,” RISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone said.

Additionally, an update was made last night stating that RISD elementary schools will no longer require their students or staff to wear a mask starting second semester.

After two weeks of adjustment to the policy change, while some students chose not to continue wearing a mask, the majority remain masked during school hours.

“I was shocked, in one of my classes, every kid still had their mask on, everyone,” history teacher Stephen Simonds said. “Once the district removes it, it’s up to these individuals, you can’t force your opinion on anyone. I try to be a role model and do what I think is right.”

Although many RHS students continue to wear their mask, students like junior Kylee Haag feel concerned and nervous by the district’s decision.

“I feel like for now we should keep them on, especially with the fact that we’ve never not worn them during the pandemic, we could end up back at a really bad place,” Haag said. “I have younger siblings, they’re the ages of three and under. They don’t have a strong immune system and cannot be vaccinated – I don’t want to bring it home to them.”

Worries of family contracting the virus is common among students and staff, especially for those living in close contact with immunocompromised individuals.

“If we suddenly get rid of masks, I feel like that’s going to defeat some of the progress that we’ve had up to now,” senior Carm Ochoa said. “My family is immunocompromised. My dad was super-healthy but he passed away because one of his friends got sick and they weren’t wearing masks — you can get it from anybody, and that puts everybody at risk.”

The timing of the policy change is another factor of concern for senior Will Mathis who thinks that the district should have waited to enact it after winter break.

“Waves are obviously expected to come up again during the holiday season, and I feel that the mask mandate will come back in some form or another eventually,” Mathis said. “I do have some concern that there will be some people who didn’t need to get COVID that unfortunately become victims due to the risky decision.”

U.S. history teacher Martin Russell said the removal of the mask mandate allows him to teach easily and more effectively.

“About time,” Russell said. “It breaks the cadence of your breathing and your talking, you know? You’re in a rhythm, and you have to yell to get your message across through the mask – If the numbers are down to almost nothing, like they are now, then why wear them?”

For students like junior Bennett Justin-Phillips, the mask policy debate has a political element to it that he feels is one-sided.

“If [the district] thinks that wearing masks at school is keeping us safe from COVID, then wouldn’t they also look into implementing metal detectors to prevent school shootings?” Justin-Phillips said. “They kind of pick and choose when rules should apply.”

Regardless of political significance, for many the lifting of the mask mandate doesn’t mark the end of the pandemic, nor the cautionary mindset that many Richardson students and staff have adopted.

“This still isn’t normal,” Simonds said. “I don’t even know what normal is anymore. Hell, I may wear the mask for the rest of my life.”