Manual weighs in on what JCPS should do about masks


Photo by Kai Pilger, courtesy of unsplash

The mask mandate has become a big debate in JCPS.

Kaelin Gaydos, Sports Editor

With the start of the new school year, JCPS had to return to school under a mask mandate due to COVID-19 numbers. Jefferson county is in the “red zone,” which means that there is a high risk of contracting COVID in the area. The Center for Disease Control suggests that when COVID levels are high in a certain area, masks should be worn in school.  There has been debate over whether we need to continue to wear masks to stay safe or if it is time to return to “normal” without them.

Less than 2% of the largest public school districts in the U.S. are requiring masks this school year, JCPS being one of them. Most of the counties surrounding Jefferson county are also mask-optional (as of right now) for the 22-2023 school year.  

In a survey of 2,500 JCPS educators, only a little more than one-third said they wanted masks to be required this school year. All teachers want to be able to return to school someday and to a sense of normalcy without masks, but some still feel that right now the mandate is necessary in order to stay safe. Many Manual teachers expressed that although they would prefer to teach without masks, they understand why the mandate is in place.

“You know with the mask mandate, I think it’s a good thing that JCPS is trying to protect students and teachers. Would I rather not have a mask in class, yes of course. I think everybody would rather not have a mask. But thinking about making sure that we stay in class as long as we can, if it is by wearing a mask, I’m all for it. I hope that numbers will go down and it will become optional. Anything that will allow us to stay in school, I am fine with,” Madame Audrey Villon (French) said.

“I miss seeing students’ faces and expressions, but I understand the importance of trying to do anything we can to keep ourselves and the most vulnerable among us safe.  Schools are such a hotbed for shared germs!  If it keeps more of us in school and learning, so be it.  I don’t think schools can do all of the heavy-lifting for protecting children and adults from catching COVID, but I do think . . . even though I miss people’s faces . . . masking makes some sense when our COVID numbers are so high,” Ms. Becky Slagle (English) said.

“I strongly support the mask mandate; there is ample evidence that current variants of the virus are more contagious than ever, and that masking works. I think there is a growing sense that because the new variants seem to be causing less severe illness in most people, we can relax our precautions, but that ignores the fact that there are still over 400 COVID deaths a day in the US, and according to the CDC, almost 1 in 5 people with COVID end up with Long COVID. Most importantly, to me, the mask mandate is about protecting the most vulnerable members of our society; those who are immunocompromised or who for whatever reason are unable to get the vaccine. I support the mask mandate not just to protect myself but to protect everyone in the community,” Ms. Julie Clinkingbeard (Art) said.

Manual students, however, have mixed feelings. Some of them feel that masks are still a necessity this year with the COVID numbers, but others are tired of them and are ready for the mandate to be lifted.

“It’s slightly annoying but necessary with how many people are getting COVID right now,” Xishan Ritchie (12, YPAS) said. The positivity rate in Kentucky is currently about 19%, which is similar to the positivity rate of October of 2021, when JCPS was also under a mask mandate.

“I think that as much as most people just want to unmask, and trust me I do too, I think that it’s still a good idea to mask up while we’re still in the red zones. Hopefully everything will start to die down this year and we will have the choice between wearing a mask and not,” Maya O’ Dell (10, J&C) said.

“I don’t like the masks. I don’t really think anyone really wants to wear masks,” Elijah Reynolds (11, MST) said.

“I think in theory the masks were a great idea last year. I don’t think the same for this school year. I just think that if school is the only place people are wearing masks they are useless. Right now is the best example with the state fair going on. There are thousands of people going with no masks. Wearing masks in school isn’t going to stop the spread of COVID right now,” Riley Roberts (10, J&C) said.

Some students expressed apathy toward either side of the debate.

“I would really prefer not to need them but it’s whatever,” Michael Norris (12, YPAS) said.

COVID cases in Jefferson county have decreased slightly since the decision was made in July to start off the school year in masks. If the numbers continue to decrease, we could soon be mask-optional. However, the JCPS Board of Education has said that as long as the county is in the red zone, masks will be required in schools and on buses, as well as at after-school events for now. You can check the COVID stats here.