MCPS masks up to protect students from COVID-19


Photo by Austin Vinner.

WCHS students wear masks and do their best to socially distance while transitioning between classes. Hallways are among the most dangerous times during the school day due to the large number of people in such a small space.

By Austin Vinner, News Editor

With the 2021-2022 school year trekking on full steam ahead, let’s recap what has probably been the most significant change in schools compared to previous years: masks. So how has the mask mandate been enforced, and what’s the biggest threat to keeping schools open? 

This year, the enforcement of mask usage hasn’t been a major problem because of the county-wide mask mandate. Still, MCPS and WCHS, in particular, have been adjusting regulations to suit student and staff needs. Debra Feldman, an Honors US History and AP Psychology teacher, has seen the effects of the mask policy first hand.

“I think the mask policy has been working well at Churchill,” Feldman said. “Students are expected to wear masks at all times unless eating or drinking, and for the most part, students are following this policy.”

This overwhelmingly positive reaction to wearing masks 30 hours a week is a step in the right direction. However, as Feldman mentions, not everyone is equally careful in school. Teachers often have to remind students to wear masks over their mouth and nose and are constantly on the lookout for unsafe behavior that could impact the whole class.

“I would say 95 percent of my students follow mask guidelines in class and have no issues keeping their masks on,” Feldman said. “I do have to remind students sometimes to keep their masks on properly over their nose in addition to their mouth. I understand it is hard to wear a mask all day long, but it is the safest way to keep each other safe and be able to stay in school five days a week.”

While WCHS is doing a relatively good job keeping students safe, there is still room for improvement. MCPS policy states that anyone who enters an MCPS facility is required to wear a face covering. Aryaan Duggal, a WCHS senior, has noticed that the mask policy is not always followed.

“In the football games, many kids don’t have masks on,” Duggal said. “It’s hypocritical to enforce a mask mandate in school but then have students jam-packed into a stadium just minutes after without masks.”

Staying safe in school is one thing, but what about outside of school where there is no oversight over what students and staff do? Especially as cases rise, students wearing masks, or lack thereof, can make it difficult to know who has been exposed to who and therefore who to quarantine.

“I am extremely cautious when it comes to COVID precautions and safety, so it is hard to compare myself to others,” Feldman said. “I always wear my mask in school and public spaces. I think the school is doing the best job it can at implementing safety precautions and procedures for mask wearing, hygiene practices and social distancing. When you have 2,000+ people in the building, not everyone is going to have the same levels of comfort when it comes to safety and precaution. I believe that as long as you are doing what is best for you while still following the mask and safety precautions put in place, that is all we can ask for as a school.”

MCPS is doing the best they can to control the spread of COVID and keep schools open. As we’ve seen with the expansion of rapid testing to high schools over the past few weeks, the county isn’t opposed to making changes.

“They are doing pretty good!” Duggal said. “I like the mask mandates, but some [aspects of school] like the lunch lines and football games detract from the overall good enforcement of the masks.”

Wearing masks isn’t ideal and everyone is hoping that one day we can return to seeing each other’s faces. For now though, it’s the only way to ensure safety for everyone in school. Duggal explains how wearing masks has affected his day-to-day learning.

“It obstructs my glasses and sometimes fogs them up,” Duggal said. “But other than that, they’re pretty good.”

The learning curve that comes with wearing masks in school and the responsibility to keep each other safe is unfortunate, but everyone should realize that teachers, as well as students, have to adapt. Teachers didn’t imagine teaching in these conditions, so it’s important to be understanding as we all navigate these confusing times.

“The biggest inconvenience about wearing masks in school has been not being able to see my student’s faces and having them not be able to see mine as well,” Feldman said. “It has been harder to learn all of my students’ names because of the masks. Also, I am very expressive when I teach, and I feel that students are missing out on some of my jokes or teaching style because my face is covered.”