Ready or not, Thunderbirds take off the mask

Kani Miller, Senior Editor

For the last two years, Covid-19 has dominated the headlines. Some claim we can control the virus with masks, vaccines, quarantining, and social distancing, while others cheer for letting it run its course. One place where some of the most emotional disagreements have occurred is within our schools.

For nearly two years, Laramie County School District 1 has enforced a mask policy in the name of public safety and keeping schools open. On January 10, the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees voted, 4-3, to lift the mask mandate for students and faculty.

Trustees Brittany Ashby, Christy Klaasen, Alicia Smith, and Tim Bolin voted yes to the remove the mandate, while Rose Ann Million Rinne, Rick Wiederspahn, and Marguerite Herman voted to keep the mask policy in place. On January 24, students and staff were given the option, with the District’s stance now being masks are “highly recommended.”

Along with the mask mandate being lifted, the Center of Disease Control changed its Covid protocol. Now students and faculty who test positive will only have to quarantine for five days and those who wore masks around the individual will not have to quarantine.

On the day of the hearing, many Laramie County citizens packed the hearing, forcing many to view the proceedings from the overflow room. They came to testify during the public comment section about their beliefs and feelings on the mask mandate in the school district. Only three people supported the mask mandate.

With all these rapid changes to Covid protocols in the first month of the year, students are divided on how to traverse the last half of the school year.

Some students at East High, like senior Gavin Gipfert, welcomed the mask-optional mandate with open arms.

“[I feel] super happy,” said Gipfert. “It feels nice to not be covered up all the time. I don’t think masks work because, even when people wear masks, there’s still Covid cases. I think they’re pretty useless.”

Senior Brekken Meeks was angered by the trustee’s decision.

“I think it’s literally dumb,” said Meeks. “Covid cases weren’t getting better when we had the mask mandate so what’s the point of getting rid of it. People think the vaccine is just going to get rid of Covid. It’s just frustrating.”

East High’s principal Sam Mirich expressed how he looks positively on the mask mandate being lifted and hopes to put this pandemic behind him while keeping students and staff safe.

“It’s fine,” said Mirich. “Everybody is still working together to make sure students and staff are as safe as we can be in our school community. We’re going to continue to practice social distancing and continue to work to make sure everybody is as healthy as possible throughout the school year.”

With cases currently on the rise in Wyoming, Laramie County citizens and the LCSD1 school board will be keeping a close eye on the results.