Safety vs. comfort: The decision to wear a mask sparks discussion between students

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Kushi Maridu

Junior Tejus Kanathur (right) interacts with junior Jun Oh (left) while wearing a mask.

Kushi Maridu, Site Manager

As school started up for the 2021-2022 school year, masks were officially declared optional. This decision has created a divide among Pleasant Valley High School students. 

The previous school year was convoluted for students and teachers alike. It started with a mask-mandated hybrid schedule where students attended school on alternate days. Then, as COVID cases began leveling down, the school evolved into 100 percent in-person classes but with masks still required. Then, the vaccines rolled out.

As the amount of vaccination among students and teachers increased, more people became skeptical of the mask requirements. There was even a petition named “Making Masks Optional in the Pleasant Valley School System” which gained traction and collected more than 600 signatures. Masks were ultimately made optional after Governor Kim Reynolds signed a law banning mask mandates through Iowa.

After more than a year of uncertainty, PV families are trying to achieve normalcy this school year. However, with the Delta variant on the rise, it is almost impossible to reach regularity as the school continues to make it optional to wear masks.

Most people choose not to wear masks. Some wear them despite taking the vaccine for extra precaution. A survey done by the Spartan Shield found that approximately 30 percent of the PV students wear masks, leaving the majority unmasked. 

Junior Tejus Kanathur believes mask-wearing is creating a division among students. “It’s really frustrating that masks are polarizing students because it’s for everyone’s safety. Everyone takes everything too seriously, even the little things like mask-wearing,” Kanathur said. “I wear my mask because I don’t want to put my family members and my fellow classmates at risk.” 

Kanathur, like many other mask-wearers, demonstrates safety before comfortability. However, this comes at a price. Mask-wearers cannot interact normally with most of their peers without breaking the social distancing guidelines. “I respect [the non-mask-wearers’] decision but I would like them to think if their comfort is worth risking the safety of other people,” Kanathur concludes.

On the other hand, Junior Aaron Ingram believes masks are not as important. “I feel like we’ve gotten to a point where everybody’s just tired of masks and I feel like COVID’s not that big of a danger,” Ingram said. Many others agree with him on this point by not wearing masks. They either think it is not that big of a threat, or they simply do not care enough. 

Ingram also believes there is a lack of polarity in the school when it comes to the choice of wearing or not wearing a mask. He said, “I believe that there’s no division because people are more concerned about their own well-being rather than what people wear.” Kanathur and Ingram’s opposing ideals say otherwise. 

While Kanathur believes there is division among those who choose to mask and those who choose not to, Ingram says students are too busy with their own lives to care if people are wearing masks or not. 

Among all of this commotion, a common sentiment from both Ingram and Kanathur was respecting other people’s choices. “I respect their decision as long as they respect mine. We all have our differences in opinions on how to handle these confusing times,” Ingram voiced. 

At this time, it is more important than ever to be thoughtful of others’ choices. Kanathur and Ingram serve as an example of being considerate of other perspectives even if they do not completely follow one’s own ideas.