Saved by the Bell with Masks
Riley Bodell throws a blue reverse UNO card onto the smudged Wegman’s table.
“That’s cheating!” Amelia Gibbons yells.
Four 16-year-old high school students sit playing cards, joy, hope, and optimism echoing through their laughter. A woman walks by Ethan Haak quickly grabs his mask, whipping it back onto his face. The coronavirus emerged when these students were only 14.
“It at first was fun, (not being in school) cause we didn’t have as much stuff to do, but it’s made it harder to learn,” said Bodell.
From the beginning of 2020 to 2021 all New York State Public Schools were switched to online learning.
“Covid helped me a lot because I have such bad organizational skills, then we started using Google classroom…my grades skyrocketed,” Haak added.
While some students thrived with online learning, others realized that they were falling behind.
“We 100% missed out, it creates a domino effect of we didn’t cover this last year, and don’t have time next year,” Gibbson explained. “It’s just constantly missing out… there’s nothing we can really do to go back and fix it, we don’t have time.”
In the 2021–2022 academic year Fairport Senior High School classes were all converted back to person, with masks.
“I don’t hate it. Of course, I’m anxious walking in everyday hearing people cough,” said Gibbson.
Fairport Senior High School requires all students and faculty to wear masks, but unlike many places in New York State students don’t have to have the covid vaccine to attend school.
“The students that aren’t vaccinated are very proud and make it known. A bunch of people (students) just don’t wear there masks correctly,” said Bodell.
“They are yelled at, they put them up for a second but then take them right back down.” Haak adds. “The teachers have almost no authority, all they can say is not to do it.”
On top of teachers having no authority, many are being criticized for how they have handled the mask mandate. Teachers in Virginia Public Schools are stating that they will not teach students without masks on. Virginia parents are attempting to get all of the “no mask, no class” teachers fired. In Oklahoma City five teachers were fired for refusing to wear masks. Protesters outside Spokane High School call for all those making children wear masks be fired.
“I haven’t heard of anyone being kicked out of class for not wearing a mask,” said Haak with the rest agreeing, until Gibbons remembered a math class where her teacher wouldn’t allow a student to stay in class without a mask.
“They keep making announcements over the PA to wear your mask, but it doesn’t change anything,” Haak adds.
The superintendent of Fairport High school Brett Provenzano sent a letter to all parents and guardians on this issue. The letter reads “… the Department of Health will appeal the Nassau County Supreme Court decision…restoring the mask rule until such time as an appellate court issues a further ruling,” sent on Jan. 24, 2022.
The students still remain hopeful for a brighter future.
“The only way it will get better is if we all keep trying,” Gibbons reveals “we must work together to improve, we can’t make anything good if we are all separated.”
The four return to the intense UNO game, living in that very moment, a simple yet powerful moment, showing that if four 16-year-olds can still sit, laugh, and be kids maybe the world isn’t as screwed up as it seems.