WHS adjusts to school without masks


Photo by Hi's Eye staff

Period 8 in room 111 during the first week of mask choice

On March 7, the N.J. mask mandate for schools was officially lifted by Governor Phil Murphy. Wearing a mask is now optional in the building and on school buses at WHS. However, masks may be required again during periods of elevated community transmission or during an active outbreak of COVID-19.

Many students have been waiting for two years to take their masks off and are relieved to finally feel safe in school without them. “I was so excited to be able to see all of my friends’ and teachers’ faces and to feel the sense of normalcy in school that I haven’t felt since sophomore year. I never realized how much masks took away from us in the social interaction aspect,” said senior Charlotte Cohen.

Senior Leah Weiss said, “School finally feels normal again which I am very excited about. It felt like everyone was a lot happier and had a lot more energy. I feel safe. I am [vaccinated] and boosted, and for the first time in a while, the thought of COVID-19 didn’t even pop up in my head.”

However, there are still protocols in place to keep the school safe from COVID-19 outbreaks, such as limits on how many students can sit at a table in the student center and cafeterias. Additionally, students are still expected to sit three feet apart in classrooms, and the auditorium remains open for socially distanced seating. This is important for students who feel uncomfortable going maskless.

“I really do not like having my mask off…I prefer to keep mine on because I have family who are immunocompromised so I try to be conscious of them,” said senior Emily Triolo.

Freshman Olivia Gaffney was wary as well: “When I first came into school, I felt anxious and nervous about the new rules regarding masks. It felt awkward seeing everyone’s faces for the first time.” Ahead of March 7, Principal Mary Asfendis spoke to WHS via BDTV to remind students and staff to respect each other’s personal choices upon the lifting of the mask mandate.

However, leaving the choice up to students and staff leaves room for potential conflicts. “I get the impression that people who wear masks are judging those who aren’t wearing masks,” said junior Jenna Weinberg.

On March 14, just a week after the mask mandate was lifted, Superintendent Dr. Raymond González sent out an email to all staff and parents in the district explaining that schools will no longer actively conduct contact tracing for all staff and students, except for pre-kindergartners who are still ineligible to receive the vaccine.

In the email, González stated, “COVID-positive individuals will be required to isolate per the most recent guidance, and those who self-report as close contacts should follow the quarantine guidelines. As always, our school nurses and staff remain ready to help families navigate isolation/quarantine requirements.”

In place of the previous contact tracing measures, schools will continue to send out information about cases their children may have been affected by. Kindergarten and elementary families will be notified if there is a positive case in their child’s classroom, and intermediate and high school families will be notified if there is a positive case in a grade level in their child’s school.