A return to smiles again as NYC schools mask mandate is removed


Zach Kaplan and Castle Bloodgood

With COVID-19 cases declining across the city, Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday that schoolchildren from kindergarten to 12th grade would no longer be required to wear a mask in schools starting Monday.

A vast majority of iSchool students wore masks while in the halls and in classrooms, something that was expected, given that 79% of 77 iSchool students surveyed in mid-February expressed skepticism over the rolling back of mandates, and 56% said they would not take their masks off at all if and when the mandate was rolled back. 

Freshman Amy Almonte said, “I’m gonna keep my mask on because I don’t think it’s safe yet, and I also don’t think I’m ready for people to see what I look like.” Amy also shared that she wants to start wearing “a KN95 or stronger” because they “don’t want to be a super spreader.”

A lot of iSchoolers have expressed concern about revealing their faces to everyone, and those students have been, by a majority, underclassmen. When asked about this, Amy said, “Yeah that’s mostly why I’m scared. I don’t want people to be like, ‘OH that’s what you look like…’” 

Most freshman and sophomores have not been at the iSchool long enough to experience a maskless school day, and the anticipation has been building.

Freshman Emmy Finn says, “I’m excited to see what people look like!” to which another freshman, Briana Melguizo, added, “But I don’t want people to see what I look like.” This was a shared sentiment with the freshmen interviewed.

“Kids you don’t know [well], create an expectation for what you look like and are not afraid to share their thoughts about it if you don’t actually look like that,” chimes in freshman Maila Corea. Maila says she thinks she’ll decide whether or not to wear a mask based on the circumstances.

Many people wore masks in situations where they were in closer proximity to one another, including during the viewing of a video in Physical Education. 

Junior Domenico Fabbri chose to not wear his mask this Monday and says he “won’t be wearing a mask unless the numbers go up again.” He also says about people who continue to wear their masks, “that’s their choice, I have no stake in that.”

Everyone seemed to be conscious of their peers’ beliefs and respectful of their peers’ decisions, regardless of whether or not they wore a mask or not. Ms. Coleridge and Mr. Jones began their lessons by encouraging students to be vocal about how they’re feeling, and asking them to speak out if someone not wearing a mask near them makes them uncomfortable. 

Sydney Johnson, a senior, wasn’t wearing a mask, but had it under her chin so she could pull it up at any time. 

“To be honest, I don’t know what has changed to have the mandate removed now versus either before or in the future, so I’m fine with it being removed now,” she said.

Ultimately, the vibe in the hallways seems to be much happier, whether it’s the fact that everyone’s facial expressions are clear, or maybe, that there is more hope in the air.