No More Masks in Madison?

Gianna Izzo, Broadcast Journalism

Masks, a constant in our lives since March 2020. It’s become a habit to grab either your N95 or blue surgical mask before leaving to go anywhere over the course of the past 19 months. Within public schools, masks have been worn since the return from virtual learning in September of 2020. However, when March 7, 2022, arrives, it will soon become a matter of student and staff choice whether or not to mask up.

Schools are currently one of the few places where mask mandates remain in the state of New Jersey. Sticking around after Governor Phil Murphy lifted mandates for businesses this past May, the subject of unmasking children in schools has been met with controversy. Conservatives have constantly been pushing for the mandate to be lifted since it was instated, however, just this past month, Murphy extended the public health emergency due to the Omicron surge, keeping the mandate in place due to the rising hospitalizations and cases.

However, Monday, Murphy’s tone changed as he announced that masks would no longer be required in all New Jersey public schools and daycare centers effective March 7. Stating that, “This is a huge step back to normalcy for our kids.” He cited the drop in cases following the most recent surge as the reason for lifting the mandate. 

The CDC is still recommending that masks be worn in school settings, showing that Murphy is straying from the guidance he has followed throughout much of the pandemic and is instead following states such as Delaware and Connecticut who are taking similar steps.

While the mandate is being lifted, the choice of whether to require masks or not is up to each individual school district. Madison Public Schools will be making mask-wearing optional in all five schools for both students and staff. The district released an email to parents Wednesday, announcing this decision and stating that the community will most likely have a mixed response.

In his statement, Superintendent Schwarz asks the school community to be respectful of others’ decisions to either wear or not wear a mask as it will soon become a “personal and private matter.” The school district will take action to ensure the equal treatment of all students regardless of their decision as a part of their commitment to “empowering all students and families.” 

Students’ opinions vary greatly. Junior Ben Preston states that, “as much as wearing a mask is mildly irritating at times, removing them without enough research to back a safe transition is irresponsible.”

 As some students cannot be vaccinated due to pre-existing conditions, they worry about their safety if the extra level of protection a mask provides is removed. Other students are looking forward to being able to see their classmates’ faces and returning to what they once knew. Senior Luke Denison is excited to see the mandate be removed as he “wants to see high school return to the way it was as a freshman” and to see the COVID-19 pandemic come “full-circle, providing an element of nostalgia.” When March 7 arrives, it will be interesting to see the choices students and staff make regarding wearing masks.


Ben Preston & John Csatlos