Should ASD 20 Institute a Mask Mandate?


Students hard at work in an in-person learning environment.

Last year’s school year was one marred by online schooling, quarantines, and much uncertainty about what was to come. So when students and teachers were told that we would be returning to in-person learning this year, there was a warm response. However, Air Academy’s return plan was a little different than the plan for other Academy District 20 schools. Due to its location on the Air Force Academy base, there was a mask mandate instituted at the school.

While this created a brief negative sentiment, this mandate has proven to be instrumental to the successes of this school year. The mask mandate has made it so few students have had to quarantine and miss classes in this otherwise normal school year. Other schools in the area have not been as lucky though. Vista Ridge High School had to shut down in early September and other schools have had to quarantine large groups of people. Air Academy, on the other hand, has been relatively safe from such events.

“We have benefited from not having as many students and staff quarantined this school year,” said Air Academy principal Dan Olson. “Our students, staff, and parents have been great. Most understand that this is something that we have to do and comply with even if they disagree with it.”

With limited quarantines and no closures, students at Air Academy have been able to enjoy the improved learning environment of consistent in-person classes. When there were classes online last year, it was harder to focus, interact with other students, and it was more difficult to ask teachers questions. 

“Last year, with online learning, it was a lot harder to stay engaged in classes because it was all through a screen. So far this year, it has been easier to ask teachers questions and to get help when I need it, ” said senior Dylan Teeples. 

Teachers have also found that the in-person environment has made learning easier for both them and their students. Especially compared to last year, when teachers had to juggle the challenges of online teaching with systems that they had never used before.

“I think [the mask mandate] is keeping us in school right now. Which is where we need to be right now. Without that you have kids quarantining,” said math teacher Laurilyn Gregerson. “The hybrid learning was hard for students, parents, and teachers. I can definitely see the difference between this year and last year.”

So not only does a mask mandate keep students safe from COVID itself, but it helps to provide a better learning environment. So far, Academy District 20 has made no move to take a page from Air Academy’s book and institute a mask mandate at all of its schools. It seems that it would be a wise decision given the positive impacts seen and since there haven’t been any negative consequences from the mandate. Maybe that will change as we head into winter, a time where cases spiked last year, but for now, the rest of the schools in the district remain vulnerable to quarantines and shutdowns.