Glen Rock’s Lifted Mask Mandate: The End of an Era

by Louisa Billingsley

For many students, March 2020 seems like it happened a couple of weeks ago, but it has been two years since the day schools across the country were shut down. COVID-19 has felt like a blur for students, between the shutdowns, and disruption to daily life and being virtual for weeks on end. For many, it seemed as if the pandemic was never going to end. Just being able to be in school full time felt like a huge jump. However, on Feb. 7, Governor Phil Murphy announced that mask mandates in New Jersey schools were to be lifted on March 7th. 

This is a huge shift for New Jersey, considering how strict the state has been with pandemic guidelines in the past, as well as Glen Rock’s close proximity to New York City, with plenty of commuters living in town. Although Governor Murphy had a shift in tone, he stated, “We want to get to a place where we can live with this thing in as normal a fashion as possible.”

For the past two years, Glen Rock High School has been revolving around COVID-19. With the pandemics effect on sports, clubs, and academics in general, more and more anticipation built up around the end of the mask mandate. Schools have been hit hard with covid, due to large groups of people in confined spaces. Considering students and faculty have experienced this first hand, the Glen Echo ran a poll in order to get opinions surrounding this monumental change.

A poll was conducted of 67 GRHS students asking for their opinions on the end of the mask mandate. 38.8% of students planned on taking off their mask. 25.4% decided to keep their masks on. And 34.3% of students had not decided when the survey was conducted. Students were almost perfectly divided on masks. While a majority are ready for it to come to an end, others are putting the safety of family members and themselves first.

One major concern with taking off the masks is an inevitable rise in cases, and not just with COVID-19.A bulk of students shared their concerns with the pandemic not being over yet. Fear of infected family members, and new variants also concern students. As well as the risk of another shut down, which no student ever wants to endure again.  One student states, “ I think everyone will get sick not even with COVID-19 but with other illnesses, and everyone will be out of school. I see it doing way more harm and it’s a little weird considering just a month ago there were the highest cases of COVID-19 there were ever in the whole span of two years.”  

Students are also reluctant to leave behind the mask, due to having to show their faces. An overwhelming response in the survey had to do with personal appearance, and fear of judgment from other peers. An anonymous student states, “It’s gonna feel so unnatural to see everyone’s faces again but it’s exciting in a way.” School is a primary social environment, it’s strange to think about how many faces students haven’t seen.

Many students are thrilled with the end of the mask mandate. With Bergen County reaching all time lows with cases, and high vaccination numbers, “it feels okay” to put the masks away for a little while. “I’m happy about the fact that I don’t have to wear a mask, and it’ll be nice to feel like life is kind of normal again”. So many students have been searching for that normalcy since the beginning of the pandemic. The entirety of the pandemic has been unnatural, especially for teens. Formative years are crucial for people, and being stuck at home, or behind a mask has been detrimental for some. 

Nearing the end of COVID-19 and taking off the masks feels like ripping off a band aid. On one hand, it’s exposing students in more ways than one, but on the other, some think it is about time. The school’s entire atmosphere, up to this point, has been surrounded by COVID-19 for what seems like forever. Having not worn masks for a couple of weeks by the time this article is published, it’s safe to say that a reminiscent yet foreignsensation was experienced school wide. Leaving behind the level of comfort that masks provided, reaching that “normalcy” seems far away. But like wounds healing takes time, and getting back those teen years makes this unknown, a little less scary.