Media provided from De an Sun, via Unsplash.
On Monday, Mar. 7, Grace went mask optional. This change came about as a result of Governor Hochul’s mask policy change and the CDC’s new mask guidelines. The CDC guidelines state that any person who is not at a health risk or in a location with a peak in COVID cases does not have to wear a mask. Wearing a mask is, however, still required on all public transportation modes such as planes and trains.
Everyone at Grace is vaccinated and, with these new guidelines, Grace is continuing the random weekly pool testing. As of Mar. 3, the weekly cohort testing of 100 students, faculty, and staff all came back negative. After students and faculty return from spring break, they are required to provide negative rapid antigen or PCR tests (home tests are also permitted). If a person tests positive for COVID, the guidelines remain the same: the student or faculty member must quarantine for five days and are required to wear a mask at school for another five days.
Grace recognizes that there will be mixed responses and emotions to this change in policy. When a parent and student are deciding what they will do (continuing to wear a mask or not wear a mask), the Grace counseling team, in an email to families on March 3, urged parents to take their child’s feelings towards this decision into consideration. The Grace counseling team wants families to make a careful and collective decision that will make all parties comfortable. As Mr. George Davison, Head of School, commented, “Grace’s values call upon us to respect the choice that each family makes.” Grace Church believes that mask wearing is a completely personal decision and that nobody should feel pressured either way.
Some student and faculty members shared their perspectives on the matter:
Cecily P. ‘24 said she thought it could have been beneficial to wait until after break to see how other schools that are also going mask optional resulted from this switch. Potentially Grace could have changed their decision depending on the outcome of other schools. She noted that it is potentially concerning to be maskless with a group of people that you are not necessarily interacting with all the time and are unaware of their actions outside of school.
Dr. Alex Dillon, a 9th-grade History teacher, said in an interview with the Gazette that he would “keep wearing a mask for the rest of this week” so that “any students [who] wish to continue wearing a mask feel more comfortable doing so.”
Gloria S. ‘25 said she “trusted the school’s decision” and that it was made with good intentions for the students, but was surprised at the speed in which the decision was made.
Aaron H. ‘22 said he understood Grace’s decision because it is in accordance with CDC guidelines, but still thinks it will be a shock to a lot of people. He claimed Grace’s statements about respecting people’s decisions would help but would not likely fully prevent harassment from happening.
Mr. Brian Reilly, the COVID Response Manager, echoed what we are all thinking: “It’s amazing to think that two years ago this week we left mask free and haven’t returned mask free since.” Until now!