Bye, Bye Masks!

The COVID-19 Pandemic was a challenging time for all of us. From the entire world shutting down and going into quarantine for a couple of months, to having to wear masks at any public place, and also having to go to school remotely over zoom or in school where we had to be spaced out at all times and wearing a mask so that we could prevent the spread of the virus. Ipswich High would somewhat go back to normal this year, as the cohort system was no longer in place and everyone was in school at the same time. The one thing that remained throughout the school year was the masks. Masks were required at Ipswich High School until at least 80% of the school was vaccinated, despite the mask mandate being lifted in May of last year. Students grew impatient, as they were teased multiple times throughout the school year that the mask mandate would be lifted at school as they were no longer required elsewhere. Finally, after February break the town decided that students and teachers were no longer required to wear masks in school. The virus has become an obstacle that we have to learn to live with, as said by Mrs. McShane, English teacher and head of the Tiger Transcript. When asked about the mask mandate, She said, “I think it’s time; I do not think that Covid is going away. It’s evolving and different strands are popping up so we kind of have to live with it. I think if you are someone who is not comfortable and wants to wear a mask that is absolutely fine too.”  Schools across the country are lifting their mask mandates as all the states besides Hawaii have lifted the mask mandate. The world is starting to feel somewhat normal again, but there are still ways to go before we can call this pandemic officially over. 

Learning to fully come back to school and apply yourself to your education after a year of hybrid learning was a struggle and the environment of the classroom suffered because of it. Class participation was way lower than before the pandemic as people were still getting used to having to raise their hands and not just have someone else say the answers for them as they did during online school. An awkward silence would often happen in class discussions as social interaction was minimal due to the pandemic and quarantine. It has gotten better as the year has progressed, and now that the mask mandate is lifted at school, people are socializing more than ever with their classmates and have a voice in the classroom. Joe Powis, a student at Ipswich High School, commented on this by saying, “I feel as though people are more social and happier after the mask mandate was lifted. I also don’t have to get yelled at by teachers to keep my mask over my nose so that’s pretty cool.” The lifting of the mask mandate has led to a feeling of normalcy in Ipswich High School and the school is starting to revert back to the way it felt before the pandemic. 

 The students were not the only group affected, as the teachers suffered as well. Masks made it harder for teachers to teach in the classroom, as they made it harder to remember people due to only seeing a portion of the students’ faces as opposed to the whole thing. The masks also made it hard to hear students when they would participate in class, as often they would sound muffled which made it hard to truly understand what they were saying. Mrs. McShane commented on how not having to wear masks has led to a better time in the classroom: “I think kids overall seem happier. I think certain kids are more likely to talk in class now and to attempt to make personal connections.” With a rejuvenated mindset after the lift of the mask mandate, teachers feel more confident and comfortable in teaching their students and engaging in conversations with them to build up relationships.

Overall, the mask mandate being lifted at Ipswich High School and schools across the nation have made the world feel like it is going back to normal. This is not just for students, but for teachers as well as we have all had our own struggles and personal issues due to this pandemic that we are still continuing to fight through. After two years of anxiety and fear of the virus, normal does not seem far off. The pandemic may not be over, but the finish line is in sight.