Student Voices: The End of The Mask Mandate



MHS’s mask mandate end announcement.

Addie Johnson and Stevee Kraemer

As of March 1, 2022, the mandate for facial coverings and masks ended in the last remaining county of Wisconsin – Middleton’s  very own Dane County. Restaurants, stores, and facilities all around Dane County are taking down “Masks Required” signs, even in schools. Many schools around the state started the year off with masks required for all students and staff in all district facilities. Currently, COVID numbers are dropping across the board and schools have relaxed to the point where the previous guideline of ‘masks required’ has moved to ‘masks optional and recommended.’

The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) has nearly 7,300 students across eight different schools. Student opinions vary widely about whether or not to wear a facial covering, so we asked Middleton High School (MHS) students with a wide range of stances about their thoughts on the end of the mask mandate. 

When interviewing students at MHS, students varied in their decisions to or not to wear a mask. Laina Gustafson (grade 10)  said, “I wear a mask in about half of my classes, either because my teachers are pregnant, have babies at home, or have high-risk people at home and I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or feel unsafe. But my own personal comfort level allows me to not wear a mask in some situations.” 

Other students answered similarly. Sometimes they opt to wear a mask and sometimes they do not, out of empathy and respect for their fellow classmates and teachers. 

Genevieve Eck, a 10th grader, put that this was not the end of the mask mandate but an expiration date. They simply stated that it was not a singular event that caused the mask mandate to end, but it was simply time. As Dane County ended their mask mandate, other schools in the area also ended theirs, and cases were dropping. They implied that Dane County and school districts in the area were no longer requiring masks because they were not going to renew the mandate, not because COVID numbers were decreasing. This same student said that perhaps the “expiration date” should have been moved further back: “We are still in the heat of [COVID-19],” they said, adding that “Maybe ending the mandate was not the smartest choice.” Yet, this student thinks that “it’s okay for students to take advantage of not having to wear a mask.”

A perspective expressed by 10th grader Nora Sven was that they feel “it was a little too early” for the county to end the mask mandate. They stated, “Even though things seem to be getting better, people may start to take advantages of this and not wear their masks, even in high risk situations, and it will get much worse.” Their more personal opinion was that “Logistically, COVID numbers are not better and will take a lot more for it to get better. But I feel like [COVID] is something that is going to go on for a really long time, so I feel like most people want to take advantage of the little bit of time that [COVID] is not so bad and feel like you don’t have to wear a mask.”

Another 10th grader made a remark about the fact that COVID is not going away anytime soon, and that they were waiting for the “right time” to take their mask off. The unfortunate truth is that COVID numbers will never be zero, at least not in this lifetime. They expressed that there is no “right time” to not wear a mask, it is up to each individual on when they feel comfortable.

In a different space of the wide spectrum of beliefs, Brooke had their mask off even before the mandate ended. They stated very clearly that they believe “masks don’t do anything,” and that “it’s about time that [Middleton] ended the mask mandate.” 

An overwhelming majority of students did not identify with one side or the other. Students held a wide variety of opinions that exceeding any label. Students held all sorts of opinions, from evidence-based and nuanced to complete indifference. 

An example of this is Sophomore Stevee Kraemer, who offered their reasoning for not wearing a mask: “I cared more about what people thought of me than if I got COVID or not.” 

This had become such a polarizing issue that friends talked about friends and worried over what people would think of them, according to some students. In some cases, wearing a mask has become not a health issue but a political statement, somewhat defeating the original purpose. Political stances and public image are also playing a role in the mask decisions of Middleton students.It defeats the whole purpose of wearing a mask to protect oneself if someone is wearing a mask or not to make a statement, or political declaration. 

As the days post-mandate pass by, fewer students are wearing their masks. Each and every student that spoke to us about this issue had a different perspective, some of them wearing masks, some of them not. They all had one thing in common, however: they were all students right here at Middleton High School.