BREAKING: A Momentary Mandate

School district reinstates mask mandate for two weeks following sharp increase in positive COVID cases


Charlie Rosser

Dr. Sonny Arnel hands a mask to substitute teacher Sean Collins. All visitors, staff, and students must wear a mask when entering the building through Jan. 18. The board of education will re-evaluate the mask requirements later in January.

As students entered the building on Jan. 10, an eerie sense of deja-vu clouded over them. Administrators stood at the entrances masks in hand, ready to give them out to any student who walked in unmasked. Last school year this was standard routine, but this year it marks an unfortunate setback to regaining normalcy. 

On Friday, Jan. 7, an emergency school district board meeting took place over the rising concern of COVID cases in the district. Since the return from winter break, there have been 696 new cases within the district. The district’s positivity rate is 22.9 percent, prior to this the highest positivity rate we reached was 12 percent this fall. During this board meeting, a two-week district-wide mask mandate was proposed and approved with a vote of 7-0. The mandate will last until Jan. 21, after which the district will reevaluate and make any further decisions. 

The FHSD Covid Dashboard showcases abnormally high case numbers in the district. (FHSD Covid Dashboard)

Principal Sonny Arnel believes that these numbers should go down as quickly as they came up, according to the data being shown to the district. 

“[The district] still isn’t sure there’s a ton of in-building spread, but we knew a lot of kids were getting the [Omicron] variant, which is very contagious,” Dr. Arnel said. “As a result, some of the data we’ve looked at has indicated that just as quickly as this has come, we hope it will then fade.” 

In regards to sporting events and any other after-school events, masks will be highly encouraged, but not mandated. Because these events are optional, it will be up to the individual attendee to make the decision on whether or not to wear a mask. 

Many students aren’t shocked by this decision. Sophomore Erin Childs knows there has been an abundance of positive cases since break ended.

“I wasn’t surprised [about the mandate],” Childs said. “[I know] like 20 people that got COVID in one day… it’s only two weeks, plus we’ve got two half days, it doesn’t really bother me.”

Many students’ attitudes towards the new mandate seem to be unenthused tolerance. Senior Trenton Mueller is resigned to the fact that he has to wear a mask again. 

“I thought [the mandate] was whatever because a lot of people are getting sick so I understand why [it was put into place],” Mueller said. “Nobody really likes wearing a mask, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.”

The district will continue to closely monitor the data coming from each school, deciding if they still need to enforce a district-wide mandate, or if they should enforce it per building, or if there needs to be a mandate at all.