The extremism over masking in schools is rooted in ignorance and a misunderstanding of the realities imposed upon school by the health protocols.
Three times this week, public meetings on the lower shore have featured anti-mask speakers. In the case of Wicomico and Somerset counties, the sheer volume of would-be commenters and their refusal to comply with health safety guidelines like masking and distancing led to the meetings being postponed. At the Worcester County Board of Education meeting, the volume of speakers did not rival what was seen elsewhere. In fact, there were more police officers in attendance than anti-mask speakers in Newark.
During the board meeting, the commenters did little to help their case, resorting to insults and threats to the board members. One speaker even joked during the meeting individuals were outside toiling with board members’ vehicles and told the officials their backgrounds would be investigated thoroughly. All this because the local school board would not go against the state’s mask mandate for teachers and students in schools.
For private schools, many of whom across the country wanted to go the mask optional route, bait-and-switch allegations have even been hurled after the decision was made after opening to mandate masks. The fact is the protocols themselves require masks if the goal is in-person learning and to minimize inevitable close contact quarantines. Without masks, a positive teacher will quarantine an entire classroom for at least a week dependent on vaccination statuses of the students.
It’s unreasonable and unrealistic to think the local school system would go against the state requirement. Critical state funding would be jeopardized, and the county’s superintendent of schools could be removed for malfeasance if Worcester went rogue. Even if there was a plausible route to take to get around the state’s mandate, the protocols in place currently make it impossible. Masks must be worn or hundreds of kids would be in quarantine each day following a positive test result. There are already numerous quarantined individuals each day as the rules are outlined presented.
The enemy should not be masks. The worst-case scenario is virtual learning, which must be avoided at all costs. Learning through a computer at a young age does not work for social and educational growth, no matter the best intentions and efforts of the teachers. In-person learning must occur and at present, under the current health protocols, the best way to ensure it happens for the greatest number of kids is to the wear the masks. Extremist viewpoints do nothing to refute this bottom line at this time.