Transition to mask-optional system meets
By Sam Walker, Reporter
March 14, 2022 almost exactly two years since Vashon Island High School (VHS), along with the rest of the country, shut down for six weeks as the threat of COVID-19 emerged. Those six weeks turned into months and eventually a near full year of online schooling and staying off campus. Now as we enter the first steps of trying to build a new “normal,” mask mandates around the country are being lifted and students are seeing new faces at school. With some concerns still lingering around how safe it is to take off masks and start putting COVID-19 behind us, the student body and administration speak up to voice their opinions and reasoning.
“I’m excited about [the mask mandate lifting],” VHS Principal Danny Rock said. “We have had virtually no [COVID-19] cases at our school recently and King County [cases have] been plummeting, so it feels appropriate that we can begin to take off our masks.”
Over the course of the pandemic, Vashon’s transmission rate has been relatively low and vaccination efforts have been very effective, currently 92.6 percent of residents (ages +5) have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
One such student, Junior Ben Godwin, shared similar feelings to Rock.
“We have had low transmission rates and a lot of our school is vaccinated. I believe in the science of vaccines and feel that it is appropriate and comfortable to remove masks,” Godwin said.
Many students and faculty are excited and ready to see each other’s faces, but some still share concern about the recent changes. After years of masks being the new normal, the sudden shift feels startling to some.
“I like seeing everyone’s faces, but it is still pretty weird for me. I have high risk family members so I will continue to mask but I understand the want to not wear [masks] anymore,” an anonymous student said. “I feel like we are making progress but it still seems abrupt.[But] I do like the feeling of normalness that comes with the lifting though.”
While it is hard to just spring back to normal for many students and residents, other protocols have been suggested to make everyone feel safe and comfortable in the school.
“Making sure windows and doors are open in classrooms is one small action we can do to keep those around us comfortable,” an anonymous student said.
This student reflects that cross breese cannot happen in certain areas in the school.
“The lunch and breakfast lines are also not a great place [in terms of social distancing] so maybe extending that time to allow people to gauge how many people are there and when to get their food could help keep a sense of comfort in our school,” the anonymous added.
These protocols are part of finding success in these coming phases of the pandemic. With the statewide mask mandate now lifted, we begin the first stages of building back a new normal. Associated Student Body vice president senior Katy Kirkpatrick reflects her giddiness to create a new routine.
“I’m just really excited for everything to start opening and looking forward to seeing what happens in the coming months.” Kirkpatrick said.