Student masking behavior, reactions following lift of indoor mask mandate


Photo credit: Greta Irvine

Math teacher Matthew Bartha explains classwork to juniors Dani Fenster and Sophie Wallack. Community members could decide whether or not to wear a mask in indoor spaces beginning March 14.

By Greta Irvine, Editor in Chief

For the first time in two years, students trickled into classrooms maskless. Aligned with Los Angeles County, Archer leaders announced the lift of the indoor mask mandate March 10. That Monday, March 14, community members could choose whether or not to wear a mask in indoor spaces.

The Oracle surveyed the student body via email asking about their masking behavior on Monday, March 14. Out of 512 students surveyed, 141 responded.

When asked about their masking behavior in classes, 51.1% of students responded that they wore a mask in all of their classes compared to the 15.6% who said they wore a mask in none of their classes, and the other 33.3% responded that they wore a mask in some of their classes.

Junior Eliza Tiles reacted to those numbers, sharing her perspective on why so many people wore masks in some of their classes but not others.

“I felt it was pretty reasonable. But also still somewhat surprising,” Tiles said. “I think that there’s a lot of social standing of whether or not to wear a mask — like whether or not your friends or your peers are wearing masks you’re going to wear one and if they’re not, you’re not, so it’s not an anti-mask thing or anything. It’s social.”

Senior Naiboi Benjamin acknowledged the social pattern in her own behavior.

“When I go into class and I realize everyone has their mask on, that dictates my behavior. I’m like, okay, I’m going to keep my mask on because I don’t want to be the only one,” Benjamin said. “But if there’s more people having them off, I feel like, okay, maybe I will take mine off.”

When asked to rate if they believed Archer’s lift on indoor masks was the correct decision on a scale of one to five, one being strongly disagree and five being strongly agree, 17.7% of students responded with a one or two, 24.8% with a three and 57.4% with a four or five. Surveyees were asked to consider the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent community positivity rates when selecting their rating.

Eighth grader Sasha Poole said she agreed with those who rated the mandate lift a four or five, calling it a “big relief.”

“I think some people are still wearing masks for — I don’t want to question their own concerns. They may be nervous or they may have a personal situation, and I think it’s nice that we have the flexibility of deciding what’s best for ourselves,” Poole said. “For me personally, I prefer not to wear a mask … I feel like I can stay more concentrated without the mask, without having to constantly pull it up a little.”

Both Tiles and Benjamin took note of teachers wearing masks at lower rates than students.

“It’s interesting to notice that the teachers were the first ones to rip them off. Students were a bit hesitant in the beginning,” Tiles said. “But every single class I walked into, every single teacher did not have their mask on, no matter if the entire class was wearing masks.”

Benjamin attributed this behavior to students’ age, stating how as younger people, they have adapted it into their normal life. She also said the lack of ventilation in some classes encourages her to keep her mask on. Tiles addressed this problem.

“I think that even though the masks are off, ventilation should be even more imposed, which I feel like it hasn’t been,” Tiles said. “I walked through a lot of classes, and windows aren’t open, which I think is interesting. It feels like people are just done.”

Students who responded to the survey cited various reasons for wearing masks whether it be out of habit, having unvaccinated family members, waiting to see the positive results at the end of the week and more. Tiles acknowledged the concerns of those in higher-risk situations.

“I think [it] is complex because I have the privilege of if anyone in my family gets it, or if I get it and give it to them, we’re all going to be fine. We don’t see a grandmother or someone with a compromised immune system,” Tiles said. “But I know people in our grade that do, and this mask mandate [lift] is scary for them because it makes it a higher risk of them contracting COVID.”

Students who responded to the survey also shared reasons for not wearing masks, ranging from campus vaccination rates, to being tired of wearing masks for two years. One surveyee noted Archer’s role in their decision to not wear a mask in any classes.

“I made this decision because I know that Archer made the right decision by lifting the mask mandate because Archer is a safe and respectable community that gets tested weekly, and has been using materials to keep students and faculty safe,” the respondent wrote. “I believe that we are safe now to remove masks.”