Teachers weigh risk/benefit of mask wearing
By Lidya A. Teklebirhan
Annandale High School 10th grade English teacher James Bryant has had COVID, twice. After getting sick, he had brain fog and memory issues.
To protect himself and his family, he still wears a mask to school every day.
“I am not as young as some of you and don’t just bounce back,” he said. “I don’t want something else coming home like that, so I will happily continue wearing the mask.”
As concerns over COVID have waned and mask mandates have been lifted, many school employees have chosen not to wear masks anymore, according to research by EdWeek released at the end of last summer.
In that nationally representative survey, about half of educators said they wouldn’t mask in the 2022-23 school year. Only 12% said they would wear a mask regularly.
As people have been more lenient when it comes to wearing masks in public, COVID cases have more easily spread, especially in close-contact places such as schools.
All teachers face a tough choice when deciding whether or not to wear a mask: go with the maskless majority, many of whom believe that students learn better without masks (though there is no real scientific evidence supporting this), or mask up to protect themselves.
Teachers who still mask say they’ve found ways to engage with their students despite the face covering.
Stephanie Hanson, another Annandale English teacher who wears a mask every day, said she’d rather be in school and masked than miss school due to COVID.
“As a teacher, it’s really hard when I can’t be there for my students,” Hanson said.
Hanson also has a toddler in daycare, she said, which means she’s had to take a lot of time off school during the pandemic.
“If my daughter or I were to get COVID again, it would mean more time my students would be left with a substitute teacher.”
Lidya A. Teklebirhan is a rising sophomore at Annandale High School in Virginia.