Effective March 1, Shaker Makes Masks Optional

Moving closer towards normalcy, facial coverings will no longer be required


Brendan Zbanek

Students walk through a crowded hallway where masks will no longer be required starting March 1

After nearly two years, Shaker students and staff can return to school maskless.

Starting March 1, face masks will not be required for all students, staff and visitors while inside district buildings. The changes to COVID-19 protocols were emailed to parents and staff Feb. 17, just 11 days before the updated protocols will go into effect.

Masks will continue to be required in three cases. They will still be required on all school buses, “including for field trips and extracurricular activities,” per the federal public transportation guidelines, according to the email. Masks will also be required for five days for “students and staff who return to school following a COVID-19 diagnosis and a five-day isolation period in lieu of a 10-day quarantine,” the email stated. Additionally, those who have been exposed in close contact to an individual with COVID-19 will be “required to wear a mask for 10 days under the State of Ohio’s Mask-to-Stay  policy to be eligible to continue to attend school.”

This decision was made due to a “dramatic drop in the COVID-19 case rate,” the email stated. There was only one case reported to the district this week. “While our protocols have been necessary during times of increased COVID-19 spread, It is also important to ease these during low transmission periods within our community,” the email stated.

Shaker Heights Teachers’ Association (SHTA) President Dr. John Morris thinks that attending school will remain safe even without a mask requirement. “Given the low rate of transmission in Cuyahoga County and the recent trend nationwide with the loosening of mask restrictions, I think it fits right within that, I guess, pathway,” he said. 

Starting in Jan., the SHTA held weekly conversations with Superintendent Dr. David Glasner to discuss the possibilities of future mask requirements. “Pretty much it has been a weekly conversation, and our last conversation was ‘it seems like this is the time,’ and he gave me a heads up on the announcement that would go out,” Morris said.

Some students are excited to not be required to wear a mask at school anymore. “I’m excited to be back to more of a normal school environment,” freshman Jo Rich said. “I feel that this is progress to getting back to what a typical school year looks like,” she said.

Senior Akaash Chandra agrees that, socially, the new mask protocol could have a positive outcome. “It would be great to be able to see my friends without a mask and I’d feel more connected to people in Shaker,” he said. 

“I think that if the majority of the people in school are vaccinated or have already had it, then it would be OK,” junior Izzy Hart said, “It would be great to not wear a mask if it is safe.”

I’m excited to be back to more of a normal school environment

— Jo Rich, freshman

Other schools near Shaker are also adjusting their COVID-19 protocols, removing mask requirements, according to email. Solon City School District removed their mask requirement Feb. 7. “Wearing masks indoors will now be strongly recommended, but not required, for students, staff, visitors and volunteers, regardless of vaccination status,” their website states. Both Beachwood City School District and Orange City School District still require masks, according to their websites. 

Senior Ava Miller is excited for the freedom of masks not being required. “I do think not having to wear masks would be a sense of freedom we have not had in a while due to COVID,” she said.

Although the new protocols include Pre-K, the vaccine is not yet available for children under the age of five.

Junior Anna Kate Graban is skeptical that COVID case numbers won’t go up again with masks being optional. “At some point we should get back to how life used to be, but I’m afraid that cases will rise,” junior Anna Kate Graban said.

“I feel like there will be many more COVID cases starting in March, because of how rapidly COVID spreads,” senior Ayden King said. 

Although Miller is excited for the freedom that comes with masks not being required, she thinks it might be too early for these updated protocols. “It is continuing to keep us safe in schools so because of that, I feel like we should keep our school a mask required area,” she said.

Chandra has his worries with the updated protocols as well. “I think that it’s weird because I haven’t heard anything in the news about the status of the pandemic, so I think it’s crazy that we are coming to a conclusion locally without hearing from the rest of the country first,” he said. 

Morris worries that some students may be bullied for continuing to wear a mask. “One thing I hope is that in our community, we make space for people who are not ready to give up masks,” he said, “Like, does that become a peer pressure thing when kids are ridiculed or made fun of for wearing masks?”

The case numbers will be regularly monitored to determine if there should be any changes to these updated mask protocols. “This change in guidance is dependent on continued low COVID-19 case rates within our schools and our community,” the email stated.

Morris is “cautiously optimistic” for these updated mask protocols. He said, “For all of our school community, I think it’s fair to say that I feel fairly certain that we will be safe.”

Editor-in-Chief Vivian Bowling contributed to reporting.

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