Photo Courtesy of Natalie Brown
“I think that masks are really important for helping control the spread of COVID in a school that is packed like Chamblee is. I think that it’s really important that we do everything we can to try and minimize the spread. And if that means you have to wear masks, then I think that’s what we need to do,” said Nash Booth (‘23).
As students return to in-person learning at Chamblee High School, one jarring new reality is the school’s mask mandate. According to the new rule, everyone must wear a face covering at all times throughout the day. Students and faculty alike have an abundance of opinions on the action.
“Seeing as there are already a few cases in the first two weeks, I think it’s really important for people to wear it,” said Will Hatley (‘23). “I think it’s of major importance that we all wear it, you know, so we don’t have to go back to virtual.”
Other students don’t agree with the importance of the mandate.
“I don’t really care. […] I’m not against it, but if it was made optional, I wouldn’t do it,” said Matthew Coates (‘24).
Many students take the issue a step further, believing that wearing a mask should be completely optional.
“It should be optional and people should give the people a choice,” said Bastain Foelske (‘24). “I wouldn’t wear a mask either way at school if it weren’t mandated.”
Teachers, on the other hand, tend to be in support of the school’s mandate. Theresa Abernathy teaches world history and is a fan of the requirement.
“[It’s] extremely important [for people to wear masks],” said Abernathy. “ I think it’s a good thing it’s required. […] There’s too much uncertainty.”
Despite the mandate and prevalence of vaccinated students in the school, some continue to have worries about COVID-19, especially for those who don’t follow the rules.
“I’m worried for the kids that are not wearing them properly. […] I feel okay about my safety, but I worry a lot about the kids that aren’t taking it seriously. [They] are putting themselves and their family members at risk,” said Abernathy. “I feel a little bit safer knowing that a lot of my students have vaccines, […] but I still think it’s crucial that we continue this until we can get it under control.”
Renee Pascale, one of Chamblee’s chemistry and AP Environmental Science teachers, also fears for students who don’t wear masks, specifically those at school events such as football games.
“I’m concerned […] at Chamblee football games and […] [when] they are not wearing masks,” said Pascale.
Additionally, Pascale fears the consequences of getting sick, particularly taking the time off.
“I don’t fear being in a bed feeling like crap. I fear the consequences of being in a bed feeling like crap, not being able to teach my students,” said Pascale.
Some students are less worried given the vaccine.
“I’m fully vaccinated, and I haven’t had it yet,” said Hatley. “I’m not super worried, but I’m still not gonna be going up to people in their face without a mask.”
Lunchtime is a specific concern, given that students must take off their masks indoors to eat and drink in the cafeteria.
“When you have as many people as we do in the school […], there’s going to be some cases [but] we’ve all sat together for lunch without masks and it’s been okay, so far,” said Hatley.
With a possible increase in cases, other students dread a return to the virtual learning environment of previous years.
“A lot of kids are still contracting COVID every day and sooner or later, if we want to stay in the school, we need to hunker down on being COVID safe,” said Ryann Callaway (‘23).
One issue being discussed by many in health circles is the possibility of a vaccine mandate to go along with the mask requirement. Some students are large advocates for this course of action.
“I think vaccines in person should be mandated,” said Callaway. “I think you should be getting a vaccine [unless] you’re medically unable to.”
Others are more cautious when it comes to such a path.
“I don’t think that we should have one,” said Booth. “Given the fact that the vaccine is so new, and there is still skepticism, […] I don’t think that it’s the right thing to do to force people to take it just yet. I have it, but I don’t think it’s the right thing to do to force everyone to.”
A vaccine or testing mandate would affect teachers as well. Many cite the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which presents some concerns when it comes to various medical requirements.
“I’d be fine with it, but I understand there’s some HIPAA issues and some privacy issues,” said Abernathy. “We require other vaccines to come to school. I don’t see a problem with it, but I understand that there’s some gray territory.”
Some teachers are a fan of testing the staff regularly.
“I would be a fan of staff being tested,” said Pascale. “The fine line with HIPAA is that we cannot mandate that sort of testing for students, but as an employee of DeKalb county, I think it is important for those who can get the vaccine to get the vaccine [or] undergo testing regularly.”
Overall, much of the student body is in favor of or indifferent to the mask mandate. Many students just want the pandemic to be over with.
Callaway puts her strategy succinctly: “Wear a mask and don’t be an idiot with COVID.”