Is “Mask Optional” the Best Option?


A photo displaying various types of masks. (Bohemama/Getty Images)

Moesha Aplicano-Burnham, Editor-In-Chief

This article was written prior to the decision to make masks optional starting March 8th. 

The CDC has provided new guidance stating that indoor masking is no longer necessary for low transmission areas. When this was announced, many were enthusiastic about returning to some sort of normalcy, however, some were hesitant or even afraid. After all, this is not the first time the CDC claimed masks weren’t necessary. Previously, in March of 2021, the CDC stated that masking indoors would no longer be necessary for those who are fully vaccinated. This guidance was promptly taken back after the spread of the Omicron variant. 

On a more local level, the Boise School District announced that masks will be optional beginning the Monday after spring break, March 28th. There are many reasons why people have mixed feelings about this change. The instability of the pandemic, timing, and the lack of accommodations regarding absences are just a few of the many concerns.

After the CDC announced that masks were no longer necessary in March of 2021, many people were relieved that we may finally be returning back to life pre-pandemic and stopped wearing masks. Shortly after, the Omicron variant began to spread and the CDC recounted its statement. The world went from relief to panic very quickly. Pushing to get back to normal so quickly may result in a similar situation. How do we know that it is actually permanent this time? How do we know that something won’t happen to set us back again? The real question is whether or not it is something that is going to do more harm than good.

The biggest issue I see with the Boise School District’s approach however, is the absence policy, health screenings, and timing. The Boise School District states that while masking will be optional, precautions will continue to be taken against infectious diseases by screening students for potential illnesses. Students will be encouraged to stay home if they display any of the school district’s listed symptoms. However, they have not accommodated absences for those who are sick. Since it is closer to the end of the year, many students have used many of their allotted absences.  With the timing of the new health and safety plan being implemented right after spring break, many students will have been exposed to not only Covid, but other illnesses as well. Once we return, we will likely see a very large influx of students getting sick and needing to stay home. Nobody wants to lose credit for a class they worked hard in, so many students are careful when using absences. While the school encourages students to stay home, the reality is that many students will not. This could create the risk of further spreading whatever ailment they may have. 

While I agree that we should take steps towards having a normal school year, and returning to what life was like before the pandemic, I believe that the timing that the Boise School District has chosen will cause a lot of students and staff to get sick, resulting in complications regarding absences.