OPINION: Wearing masks is a necessary part of staying in school


Staff photo by Charley Rich

Masks will no longer be required in schools in January as vaccination rates continue to increase.

It seems as though the Board of Education meetings from late this summer have become somewhat of a viral sensation throughout the West Essex community for the parent questions and comments portion that come at the ends of these meetings. Each week, parents stepped up to the podium and proclaimed that Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive order 251 is unconstitutional and demanded that the West Essex Regional School District stand up against this mandate by petitioning the governor and not enforcing it in the school building. The executive order mandates masks in public, private, and parochial schools in the state of New Jersey. These parents speak with such passion about how forcing children to wear masks is “oppressive and bullying,” some suggesting that wearing masks leads to depression and eating disorders, others making references to the Holocaust comparing masks to yellow stars. 

While masks are certainly annoying, they are an integral part in making school a safe environment during a global pandemic. Most people would agree that wearing a mask is not ideal, but it must be done due to the circumstances.

At most, wearing a mask is just an inconvenience, definitely not a form of oppression that causes mental illness. The plight of high school students wearing masks is definitely not comparable to that of Jews in 1940s Germany. No one enjoys wearing masks but we do it because there is something going on in the world that requires us to do so. If not for the literal global pandemic raveging the entire planet, we wouldn’t be wearing masks. It’s not as if Phil Murphy wakes up each morning curling the ends of his mustache thinking about how he can make the state of New Jersey the worst place it could possibly be and then landed on a mask mandate. Masks are a necessary measure to combat the pandemic. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 2 years old wear a mask indoors even with social distancing.

An August 2021 poll from the board of education asked West Essex parents whether or not their children attending West Essex schools have received the COVID-19 vaccine.. About 50 percent of parents responded, and of that 50 percent, 48 said that their child has been vaccinated. Assuming those who did not respond are not vaccinated, that would mean less than a quarter of the student body is vaccinated against Covid-19, making masks even more imperative at West Essex.

In order to return back to the world we once knew, we as a society have a duty. If people want the pandemic to go away, they must address it. The best solution is to get vaccinated against the virus and if that’s not something a person is willing or able to do for personal or medical reasons, then they need to wear a mask in public. 

It’s really very simple. Last year, people constantly complained about virtual school. In order to give us the best chances of avoiding that return this school year, we need to mask up to keep the halls of West Essex a safe and comfortable place.