On February 10, the RJUHSD school board decided to lift the mask mandate for students effective on February 15. In light of the omicron variant, the board has decided to completely ignore the rising numbers and potentially send students and teachers back home with this precautionary measure eliminated.

     The omicron variant of COVID is one of the most contagious, with an omicron subvariant “already circulating in almost half of the United States,” according to CNBC. According to Danish scientists, this subvariant is “1.5 times more transmissible than the original omicron strain.”

     All of this is occurring as the school board continues to make decisions for students and teachers without actually affecting themselves. This decision is ignorant, dangerous, and uneducated.

     Students familiar with the RJUHSD board would be able to safely say that mask mandates are not in their best interests. In anyone’s absolute best interest, mask mandates are never ideal. But if they are what keep students and teachers safe, it should be a no-brainer to want to keep the mandate in force.

     Since the beginning of the second term, I have experienced students and teachers being quarantined for five to ten days because of a positive test. One of my teachers was COVID positive for at least two weeks, leaving the whole class to basically learn the material all by themselves.

     It has been a full week since my teacher began teaching in front of us, but the two weeks of his absence were tough. Every day of his absence, we had a new substitute teacher that had absolutely no knowledge of the material, granted that they even knew what class they were subbing for. Yes. Most of the subs didn’t even know what class they were teaching.

     These teachers were older, which leads me to believe that many of these substitute teachers are being asked to come out of retirement just to have an adult in front of these students. This shouldn’t be an issue.

     I feel bad for these teachers that are being called in because of the rising number of cases and increased quarantines that can last up to ten days. Yet the board thinks the mask mandate should be lifted?

     Not only was this board decision ignorant, but it was also dangerous. Of course, people are getting vaccinated as vaccinations are becoming more available for the public. However, COVID is still a risk to people with compromised immune systems.

     After over two years of dealing with the pandemic, mask mandates have been frequently lifted, usually resulting in a spike of COVID cases, ultimately resulting in the reinstitution of mask mandates. Logically, it just does not make sense to continue lifting mask mandates if they are one of the primary reasons for keeping the population safe.

     COVID fatigue is real, so it makes sense for people to want to finally be able to take off their masks and resume in a COVID-free society. But we as a community cannot progress onward if we continue to make inpatient and uncalculated decisions. 

     Regardless of the decision made on February 10, it is safe to say that numbers will continue to rise. Mask mandate or not, I will personally continue to wear my mask for the safety of myself and others.