MSSD14 balances relationships and safety


Flor Breuer

MSHS students experience the new reality of the classroom during the first weeks of school.

Flor Breuer, Reporter

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been asked to make many sacrifices and changes for the greater good. One of these new changes included wearing a mask. In many places around the world wearing a mask was already a common practice. In China, even before the pandemic, people wore masks to protect others from getting sick. When COVID-19 hit, the response there was no different. However, in places like the US, being asked to wear a mask was met with backlash and scrutiny. Many Americans believed it went against their First Amendment rights. Other groups of people who believe they had low risk toward the virus continued to throw parties and go against the guidelines set by the CDC and WHO. Getting past this and returning to the new normal was tough, let alone dealing with the setbacks that people who didn’t comply caused. Social distancing and working or studying from home took a toll on mental health. Manitou Springs School District chose to go back to school in-person with the safeguards of wearing a mask, plexiglass barriers and social distancing guidelines. Student Aaron Clune (11) felt wearing a mask to school was “terrible” the first week back to school. Bradyn Johnson (10) also struggled with wearing a mask at school. “I can’t smile at people, and it’s difficult to understand others,” he said. Students at Manitou Springs High School were excited to be back in-person, but many shared Johnson’s concern about the difficulty of communication. Aaron Clune felt that “everyone is limited with distance and the masks muffle.” Being able to understand information and communicate with others became more difficult since the COVID-19 outbreak. In Manitou, building good relationships with peers and teachers has always been important. Sophie Hyman (10) felt that masks hindered this “a little bit.” “You can’t really see each other and it’s harder to hear,” she said, but she was thankful to be back at school nonetheless. According to Hyman, her choice to participate in hybrid in-person school rather than online wasn’t related to the masks or social distancing reasons but more angled toward regaining her social life. Many staff and students agreed that masks do hinder the building of relationships for multiple reasons, from not being able to hear, to simply not being able to smile at the person next to you. Trying to smile with a mask and trying hard to make yourself heard seemed to be a new struggle everyone was trying to overcome during the first weeks of school. Teachers tried to keep a balance between staying in the classrooms and wearing masks while also taking time out of their day to make sure students had mask breaks. These changes helped students build relationships with their peers as they were able to see each other and communicate without the restrictions a mask entails. The 6 ft social distancing rule was still being followed, but being able to see one another made a substantial impact on morale across the board. Making sure mental health was monitored closely alongside COVID-19 prevention guidelines was something the Manitou Springs School District did well at the beginning of the school year.