Natalie Smith

Beaufort wearing his mask like a proper Bruin.

Never before has there been a time where a small piece of cloth has caused so much unrest and controversy within communities around the world– including the community surrounding that place we all call home in one way or another: Mountain View High School. The use of face masks as an instrument in the prevention of the coronavirus has instigated a great divide in the community– so much so that some students have opted out of on-campus learning to avoid wearing them. The rising numbers of Covid-19 have presented some extremely difficult decisions for the members of the community; one of these decisions is whether or not masks are a fight worth fighting. And, as is to be expected in an area with such a varied demographic, there are many different opinions on the matter.

When Alpine School District decided to resume on-campus schooling back in the middle of July, there was no question as to whether masks were going to be mandated. According to a recent survey of Mountain View High School students, more than ninety percent of students say that the implementation of masks is an acceptable sacrifice if the outcome is staying in school.

Hannah Fairbanks, a senior at Mountain View, said, “I like seeing people and teachers and being able to have the social aspect of school. Even if we have to wear masks, we are still able to learn and have a social life.” She continued, saying, “Masks aren’t even that bad… sometimes we forget we are wearing them.”

Some others who opted to do in person learning have a differing opinion; a few have claimed that masks give them trouble breathing or cause headaches that interfere with their focus and studies. Kaylee Smith, a sophomore at the school, said that “masks don’t interfere with school work too often– but when they do, I can’t think about or focus on anything else.” She then compared masks to phones: “When phones interfere with student focus, teachers ban them. But in this case, the teachers are required to deal with that distraction themselves, too.”

A different student offered another side of the argument: “The strict enforcement of mask-wearing at school leads many students to resent masks,” she said. “If wearing them was voluntary, more people might be willing to wear them on their own.”

Those who do not currently attend school– namely, the adults and parents– were able to offer an outside perspective on the whole situation. “From what I have heard, students do not like the masks but are more than willing to wear the mask if it means being at school and attending activities,” David Smith, former principal of Mountain View High School, shared. “I don’t like wearing one and will stop as soon as I can, however, to keep schools in session and the economy going, it is worth the inconvenience.”

One of the main problems with this conundrum is that there are lots of contradicting scientific statements and choices being made across the nation. So, one of the hardest challenges the leaders of the community face is how to educate the public. When asked if there was a better way to inform the students in the community, Smith stated, “I am sure there is, but with the divisiveness in our nation and medical science not being followed or believed I am not sure that things are going to change.”

Another parent in the community by the name of Ari Lecheminant responded, “People learn in so many different ways, and have so many different opinions… I believe continuing to have a conversation about it and it’s effectiveness using science and studies is the best way!”

However, many members of the community feel that the science and studies are not being properly represented. Malerie Walker is among those who share this opinion.  “I would love for news outlets to more openly share both sides of the argument,” she said. “I think it’s always necessary to talk about the world around us, but it’s not a true conversation if we silence one side.” 

Walker went on to discuss how she views the current news and government mandates as an attempt to control the people rather than inform them. “Telling someone what to do is not education,” she stated.

Is there a way to have this conversation without forcing our opinions onto each other? How do we respect each other’s beliefs and opinions without yielding our own?

There is not one right answer to these questions or any of the thousands of questions that the coronavirus has brought about. However, it should be easy to concede that although we as the community of Mountain View High School may have opposing thoughts or feelings on the topic of masks, we should be working together to better ourselves and each other every step of the way. “There are passionate people on both ends, and it doesn’t mean one is right or one is wrong. Both can be passionate and right at the same time,” Walker said.

Following this train of thought, the aforementioned David Smith proposed a solution: “I think a level of Unity in the community with mask wearing would help people and create less contention. There is lots of room for disagreement and different opinions, but the goal should be how can we work together to solve this problem instead of fighting between two sides.”

With the mixing pot of emotions and opinions that follow mask wearing, the community surrounding Mountain View may just need to keep trying to be together while being okay being different. It is easier said than done, but without any single, obviously correct solution on the horizon, the most powerful combat for the difficulties we are all facing is to face them together.