Mask Mandate Update for Orono Schools


Delaney Whitney

Mask mandate lifted for Orono High School students and staff.

According to an email from Orono Schools superintendent, Dr. Kristine Flesher, and Orono School Board Chair, Bob Tunheim, on February 11, Orono Schools dropped its mask mandate starting February 22. The reasons cited for this are decreasing infectivity rates in our county and “learning community”, along with increasing vaccination rates. This is momentous for Orono, which has maintained a strong mask mandate since the reopening of in person learning for the 20-21 school year.

Now, many families and students must decide their stance on mask wearing. While the CDC still recommends masks indoors, many question the benefit of wearing them this late into the pandemic, especially with a low mortality rate variant.

According to the CDC, cloth masks, which are a favorite of many, are not effective at preventing the spread of Covid, with some doctors calling them useless. Surgical-mask-effectiveness is also under question, with most in the medical community suggesting using N95 or KN95 masks which are much more effective at preventing the spread of airborne viruses.

N95’s and others like them are known to be more expensive, harder to breathe through, and uncomfortable for those who use them. While many see this as a fair trade off for increased protection against the Omicron variant, others don’t.

Another issue that is often overlooked in the mask debate is that many students don’t wear their mask correctly. When looking around the classrooms, many students can be seen fashioning their mask below their nose or as a “chin guard”. While some will ask why teachers don’t police the use of masks in classrooms, it is an often unreasonable request with limited time in the day.

With all of these combined, some believe that much won’t change. After talking to students around the school on their opinions about masking, many agree with the lifting of the mandate.

“Students who wear their mask correctly now likely will continue to wear them, while those who don’t will probably stop wearing them,” sophomore Walter Royal said.

The email concluded with the thanking of the Orono community for their compliance with the efforts that have kept Orono Schools opened these past couple of months.