Are Students Wearing Masks?

Phineas Johnson

Just before this school year began, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced a mask mandate for city owned buildings like West High. But are students—and teachers—following it? I interviewed three teachers to find out.

My questions were simple: How many kids are wearing masks correctly? How are you handling kids who aren’t wearing them correctly? Who’s better with wearing masks, teachers or students? And finally, is there anything else us students should be doing to stay safe?

All three agreed that 90-95% of students in classes were wearing masks correctly. However, they also acknowledged that they aren’t as confident on how students are doing with masks in the halls, with one teacher estimating that it was only 80-90% compliance. From my own observations in the halls, I would say that it may be more like 75-85%.

All three simply asked students to wear their masks correctly when they were not. The furthest that any teacher ever had to go to enforce mask wearing was making a class announcement about why masks are important. Fortunately, none of them have had a student that was stubborn enough for it to go past that. This is a good thing, as the mandate outlines no repercussions for refusing to wear a mask.

There was disagreement about whether students or teachers are doing a better job with wearing masks. One teacher answered simply with “Teachers” without hesitation. One felt that the two groups were similar with mask compliance, and another felt that they weren’t around teachers enough to know for sure, but thought that teachers were doing a little better.

They all recommended that students wash their hands as much as possible to stay safe, with one warning against crowding around the door before the bell, and another cautioning students away from attending parties (I’m not sure how much attention will be paid to that last one, if I’m being honest).

After all that talk about masks, now would be an excellent time to review what the mandate actually says. The parts that apply to the school are the bit that people must “wear masks in City buildings…”, as the school is a city owned building, and the bit that guides exceptions, saying that people “…may remove the face mask in the following situations: […] while actively eating or drinking, provided that the individual remains in place while eating or drinking…” There are a few other exceptions, but they would not usually apply to everyday school life.

Now I know there are those of you out there who say “Well, if this mask mandate is necessary, then the vaccines must not work!” Let me tell you, the vaccines do work, and quite well. The mask mandate is just an extra precaution. Stay safe out there!