Students respond differently to Radnor’s mask optional policy


A Physics classroom following the optional masking policy.

Edy MacKenzie, Associate Editor

Almost two years since Radnor’s doors originally closed, the community began seriously debating the school’s official mask mandate. This movement fully picked up in the wake of new CDC updates regarding a typical mask’s lesser efficiency against the Omicron variant. Moreover, virus cases in Radnor have rapidly declined following an intense post-Winter break peak; the district has transitioned from a recorded 208 cases during the first week of January to only 9 cases from February 11th to 17th. Predating a scheduled school board meeting to discuss masking in Radnor, yard signs petitioning the mask mandate removal spread throughout the township, coining phrases such as “Let them smile” and “My child my choice.”

During the much-awaited board meeting on Tuesday, February 22, many community members entered the Township building to express their views on masking. Almost thirty in-person speakers presented their opinions, while Mr. Petitti endeavored to read fifty additional comments. Ultimately, the board unanimously ruled for all district schools to transition into a mask-optional policy on Thursday, February 24.

Nevertheless, this decision proposes a choice for all Radnor students: mask or no mask? During extended Community Periods on both Wednesday and Thursday of last week, Principal Kevgas addressed all grades on updated masking policies and general behavior, mentioning the need to continue masking in certain large group settings such as assemblies. Kevgas also encouraged students to remain civil toward each other during the transition, a comment echoed by board member Sarah Dunn during the official meeting. Similarly, in their announcement of the new policy, RTSD’s Instagram page used the hashtag “#OneRadnor” to encourage students to remain respectful toward differing mask opinions.

Many assert that American politics over the last several years have represented a large divide between opinions, and mask decisions lie at the center of this current debate. Adults may feel strongly for either the continuation of masking or its removal, but many tend to gloss over the complex student perspective. In the end, it is students who enter the school building and decide whether they feel more comfortable with a mask on or off. Especially at the high school level, parents cannot make the masking choice for their student.

Sophomore Arjun Jaswal describes the transition to not wearing a mask as “a little bit” strange. “We’ve been wearing them for two years now, so it’s just kind of weird.” Jaswal also mentions how he “doesn’t think” going mask-less affects his day-to-day school life at all. “It’s basically just the same as the middle school,” Jaswal says in reply to a question asking whether it’s strange, as a Sophomore, seeing the high school without COVID policies.

“It’s nice to see everyone’s face again,” says Junior Amelia Dole. Dole believes that “it’s good to finally have masks off,” after two years of wearing one constantly throughout the school day.

Senior Elena Blumer comments on her perspective: “Personally, as a vaccinated and boosted individual, I feel comfortable in my ability to not wear a mask, but I also appreciate people being more safe than sorry in wearing a mask, and I don’t really care if anyone else does.” When asked about her comfort toward wearing no mask, Blumer replied,  “I trust the vaccine. I think it’s going to do a fair job of protecting me.”

Blumer also mentioned her own recent experience with the virus, one of the primary reasons she chooses not to wear her mask. “I got sick, but we discovered that every member of my family was asymptomatic,” comments Blumer. “And that was like the biggest thing as to why I didn’t want to get COVID, to you know pass it on. So I feel like people who have had the worst case scenario and have had COVID feel more comfortable.”

Moreover, Senior Noah Conen shares, “I’m not wearing a mask, but that’s because I’m a young, healthy individual, and I feel alright with it.” However, Conen also emphasized the need to recognize differing preferences: “But there are other people in the world that maybe aren’t alright with it, and it’s important that we need to respect their privacy and respect their immunocompromisation so we can keep them safe from COVID.”

For similar reasons, Senior Cynthia Maz believes the lifting of the mask mandate is “too early.” Maz tells the Radnorite that “it’s probably going to be awhile” until she feels fully comfortable taking off her mask. “I always imagined starting my first semester in college still wearing it,” Maz states. “I have some friends who are immunocompromised, and I want to keep them safe.”

When asked if he ever expects to wear a mask at school again in the future, Jaswal replies, “I don’t really know yet, honestly.” If there’s one thing students have learned from school during a pandemic, it’s that one can never truly predict the next stage of events. Although the masking policy provides a ray of hope for some students, others feel the need to remember how quickly new variants can arise. However, for the time being, the signs appear promising.

Echoing the voices of many students, Senior Lindsay Feinberg says, “No more breaking out from masks.” Although employed as a lighthearted commentary on a large change within our schools, Feinberg’s quip points out a key factor of this decision for Radnor students: normalcy. The term became so commonly tossed around to express desire to move on from the pandemic that “normal” even became Radnorite’s Word of the Year 2021. Many high schoolers feel that the removal of the mask is an important step toward regaining some semblance of a typical teenage experience, while some still feel the gravity of the pandemic’s physical and emotional impacts. 

Whichever choice a student makes, mask or no mask, the District has attempted to encourage a sense of union between differing opinions. Although this has yet to be achieved for our polarized nation, students express hope for a peaceful Radnor.