Mask mandate removal from Boulder County Schools
A student began to read the email once the notification sounded. His eyes widened as he knew the next time he would see his friends, he would see their faces for the first time in years.
On February 18th at 5:00 p.m. MST, the mask mandate for public spaces and schools was dropped in Boulder County and the Saint Vrain Valley School District (SVVSD).
The mask mandate has been on and off within the past few years, but starting the 2021/22 school year, masks were fully enforced among the schools in SVVSD. For most students, the mask mandate was in place since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year while having a short hiatus in the summer of 2021. It then came back into effect at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.
Through a vote of the Boulder County Board of Health, masks became optional among all students and staff in Silver Creek High School and all other schools in the district.
The decision was made by a number of factors. The schools and the district followed the opinion of leading health organizations who took into account the subsiding omicron variant, the hospitalization rate, the reduction in ill, and the lack of fatality in the region.
Erick Finnestead, Principal of Silver Creek High School, said the lack of masks will “bring back opportunities.” One opportunity he listed was the in person meetings that could now be held as opposed to virtual meetings done through Webex.
The absence of masks has made it possible for life to begin to function before the time of covid.
The mask mandate removal affects the students and staff of all schools in SVVSD and the Boulder County area.
“I like it a lot better because you can just smile and they [the classmates] can actually see your emotions,” said Ashton Ballingham, a student at Silver Creek High School.
Masks and COVID-19 prevented a social part of society that was longed for by teachers and students for many reasons. One thing masks blocked was the ability to connect with people because of the covering of the face.
“A lot of these kids I’ve never seen without a mask on,” Ballingham states. “I really get to know people through their facial expressions. It’s been pretty hard getting to know some of these people in school.”
A teacher at Silver Creek High School shares a very similar view, but is more focused on the teaching aspect of school.
“I think the two thirds of our faces covered up, that’s where we take our visual cues from and you can’t tell if someone’s angry or upset or anything with just their eyes,” Ericka Pilon, teacher at Silver Creek High School, said. “So I think we do need facial expressions to help us understand [eachother].”
After the first day of the mask mandate, many believed it was an awkward feeling, but a nice change and step forward back into the norm.
Pilon described it as, “a strange feeling, kinda like the first few days we wore masks. It’s the same feeling.”
Just like the first few days of the mask mandate in March of 2020, the feeling of unease must rise before it falls. The end of the mask mandate in schools and public areas due to the lack of need for masks, is a leap into normal life before the spread of COVID-19. Though it’s a little weird now, just like masks were in the beginning of the Pandemic, they quickly became a part of everyday life. That is all that can be hoped for with the institution of no mask mandate.