Mask from the past: Indoor mask mandate reinstated until further notice

Junior+Dani+Fenster+works+on+a+homework+sheet+while+wearing+a+mask+in+math+teacher+Matthew+Barthas+classroom.+On+May+4%2C+the+indoor+mask+mandate+took+effect+once+again+due+to+the+rising+cases+on+campus.

Photo credit: Greta Irvine

Junior Dani Fenster works on a homework sheet while wearing a mask in math teacher Matthew Bartha’s classroom. On May 4, the indoor mask mandate took effect once again due to the rising cases on campus.

By Greta Irvine, News Editor

Last week’s rise in community COVID-19 cases, as well as in the broader Los Angeles county, prompted school leaders to reinstate the indoor mask requirement until further notice. The reinstatement took effect Wednesday, May 4, after being announced in an email from Head of School Elizabeth English the day before.

“The County requires that students, faculty and staff be out of school for a minimum of five days if they test positive, and we want to prevent illness and absences whenever possible,” English wrote in her email to the community.

Last week’s testing yielded zero positive cases, but there were 20 self-reported cases reflected in the positivity rate of 3.7%. Associate Head of School for Finance and Operations Jane Davis described the thought process that led to the reinstatement of the indoor mask mandate.

“Yesterday was a day of realizing that not just were cases rising at Archer, but just community transmission is going up every single day. Ms. English and I talked it over, and given the fact that one of the problems is — it isn’t even so much that people are getting that sick, although some people are — when somebody is testing positive, they have to be out of school for a minimum of five days, [which is] very disruptive for students [and] teachers. So if there’s any way that we can mitigate those absences, then yes, and also for the health and safety of the entire community.”

Other Los Angeles schools such as Crossroads School and Chaminade College Preparatory have also reinstated the indoor mask mandate, which Davis said made her feel as if “we did the right thing.” She also acknowledged the upcoming events, such as graduation, where it is important to “balance health and safety with pragmatism.”

“We will evaluate. If in three weeks, the cases are zero, we’ll look and see. We’re hoping that this is just a sort of a blip,” Davis said, “So we’re not making any decisions about the end of the year.”

Junior Alyssa Ponrartana said she felt the decision made by school leaders was an important one for the health and safety of the community.

“It’s important given the rise in COVID cases, especially in the senior class,” Ponrartana said. “It’s just like going back. I don’t really mind it. I never really did. It’s a little hard to get back used to it, but it’s okay.”

Davis expressed gratitude for the community’s response to the updated COVID-19 guidelines on campus.

“I am so grateful to this community for being so compliant. I think the students have been so understanding, and honestly, it doesn’t seem to me like students really mind. I just really appreciate that because it keeps us all safer,” Davis said. “I think that we’re a unique community in that we have such high compliance.”