Mask Mandates for Mitigation: Safe School in a Global Pandemic


Masked students at the opening assembly for the 2021-22 school year, Courtesy of Jesuit Photography

In August, anticipating the coming school year, Jesuit students waited eagerly for news of return to school procedures after a year of virtual learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In an email to the student body sent on August 17th, Jesuit announced that “Per OHA (Oregon Health Authority) [guidelines, students would] be required to wear masks while indoors on campus.”

News of the mask requirement drew mixed reactions from the student body. While being back in person for school was exciting, sophomore Livvy Reger was disheartened with the addition of the mask mandate.

“I’d rather still be at school [and] have to wear a mask, but at the same time it was a little disappointing knowing that we’re back at that state where we have to,” Reger said.

With the rise of the delta variant and case numbers climbing in Oregon, many students were relieved that masks would be required, and were even hoping for more precautions.

“I think that [having] the masks is super helpful for parents, especially my parents because they were scared to send me to school at first,” junior Shrika Ganta said. “The only thing that I was kind of iffy about was the no masks outside, [because] I am very scared of getting covid.” 

Now, one month into its implementation, students have more questions regarding the enforcement of the mandate.

In his first month back at school, senior Rees Barnes has noticed some students circumventing the new rule, and thinks it could be enforced more strictly.

“I noticed that some students don’t wear it over their nose all the time and maybe there could be more of a monitoring of that,” Barnes said. “I just think [we should] increase the consequences, maybe make it a juggable offense if they do it consistently.” 

As with most Jesuit classroom management, enforcing the mask policy has been left largely up to teacher discretion. English teacher Megan Mathes believes that the entire Jesuit community, not just the faculty, should be preserving the mandate.

“Teachers are jugging students who aren’t [wearing masks],” Mathes said. “I think as a community, we just need to get more comfortable with saying to each other, ‘hey, pull your mask up please.’ I don’t think it has to be a big thing. […] We’re a community, we’re wearing these masks to protect our community, so it should be a community effort to norm the mask wearing. It’s not all on [the teachers].” 

Will there come a time where the mask mandate will no longer need enforcement? According to Ms. Emily Hagelgans, Vice Principal of Academics and Student Life, decisions regarding the mandate are largely based on state guidelines and largely out of Jesuit’s hands.

“Our plans are that we will abide by the requirements that are given to us, and we always will review recommendations and decide if we will follow them, based on what’s right for our community, Hagelgans said. “But if there’s something that is required, we’re always going to abide by that. A lot of it is dependent on what happens with the state.”

Looking to the future, students are hopeful that the mandate will be lifted, but many fear a spike in Jesuit COVID cases as masks come off.

“Ideally we get to a place where the CDC, the OHA, and the government say we can take them off, because I kind of want things to go back to normal,” freshman Lizzie Dellit said. “I want to keep people safe, and in an ideal world without masks that means there is no variant or COVID-19. But until we get to a world where that is safe, we need to keep them on.”