Mask mandate removal met with enthusiasm among Archie Williams community


Elliot Smith

Three students, two unmasked and one masked, collaborate on a science assignment.

California’s state-wide public school mask mandate was officially terminated Saturday, Mar. 12, and replaced with a “strong recommendation” from state health officials. The first week of school after the mask mandate removal resulted in most students refraining from wearing a face covering, with a small percentage still using them. AWHS staff also took advantage of this new option, as many teachers decided to terminate their own mask use last week.

After two years of mask mandates, lockdowns, and vaccines being used to combat COVID-19, some students were eager to return to school without a mask. AWHS sophomore Forest Morgan was happy about the change.

 “I think it’s great that we have the freedom to wear it if we want to and take it off, relax, you know, have a good time at school. But besides that, I think it’s great that we’re going down in COVID [cases]. It’s a great relief,” Forest said.

There are also many students deciding to continue to wear a face covering. One of these students, freshman Samantha Devorne, wears a mask because she has family members who are immunocompromised.

“I just don’t feel comfortable [removing my mask] yet,” Samantha said.

Aside from students, English teacher Matthew Leffel reflected on the past two years of mask mandates.

“I look around campus and it seems like a lot of students are eager to stop wearing masks, and I can definitely understand that. It’s interesting that it kind of marks two years, [since the start of virtual learning] Mar. 2020, so just in that respect I’ve been thinking about how uncertain we were then and how much we’ve gone through since then,” said Leffel, who continues to wear a mask while teaching. “We’ve been through so many spikes and variants that a lot of us have learned to live with uncertainty …I just think we’re lucky in this community to have such high vaccination rates, so there’s some protection in that regard.”

Marin County and AWHS have very high vaccination rates, at 88 percent (according to Marin Health and Human Services) and 92 percent, (according to Tam Union High School District) respectively, with no current COVID-19 infections at AWHS. Assistant Principal Nate Severin is feeling good about the transition due to the lack of COVID-19 cases on campus.

A math teacher helps a student on work, both without masks. (Elliot Smith)

 “[The option to choose whether to wear a mask is] overall a good thing, as long as people are being respectful toward each other and whatever choices they make,” Severin said. 

With many students and staff feeling good about the removal of the mask mandate, the first week with no mask mandate marks a significant milestone in AWHS’s journey through COVID-19.