Masks at Woodlands


Woodlands Academy Student discusses an assignment with history teacher, Mr. Sands, while wearing masks.

Brandy Brennan, Copy Editor

17 of the 50 states have current school mask mandates. Since the start of the pandemic, masks have been highly debated. The state of Illinois holds a school mask mandate that requires all students, staff, and visitors to wear masks when indoors, regardless of vaccination status. This mandate was enforced August 4th, 2021 by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker  in light of the state’s rise in positive COVID-19 cases. 

The effects of masks are evident in the Woodlands community, which can be explained by Woodlands English teacher Jennifer Brostrom: “[Wearing masks] impacts the clarity of communication in the classroom. I sometimes have to ask students to repeat themselves (since masks muffle voices). . . The other area impacted is facial expression reading: when students are presenting to the class or telling a funny story, it can sometimes look as if the audience is rather blank when in fact they are smiling.” Masks have made it more difficult for teachers to instruct in their classrooms, as it is difficult to get a point across with voices being muffled and without facial expression. This has especially impacted English classes, where students are often expected to act out plays, but half of their faces are covered by a mask. This keeps them from getting a full acting experience. 

Freshman Fiona McNulty says “Sometimes it is hard to clearly hear some people since masks muffle people’s voices. Also, I think my French class would be a lot easier with

out masks because when learning to speak a new language, you need to focus a lot on expression and masks make this difficult.” Masks can not only make basic communication more difficult for students, but also classes as they make communication more difficult, keeping students from asking questions and hearing clearly.

Woodlands is well known for its close and welcoming community, but COVID-19 has constrained it from reaching its full potential. When asked about how the Woodlands community has been affected since the mask mandate, Senior Berkeley Borkert responded saying “I think we’re more disconnected than before- but I think that’s due to the pandemic itself not masks.” Since the start of the pandemic, many of Woodlands traditions have been put on hold. Some events, such as the annual music festival/trip, and global odyssey trips were postponed the previous two years due to COVID-19. The loss of simple traditions like these hinder the possibility of the school feeling connected. This feeling is also due to the fact that during the 2020-2021 school year, grade levels were often spread out in order to be able to socially distance, making it difficult for there to be interaction in between grades. 

Fortunately, many of Woodlands traditions are coming back again this year. Global Odyssey trips have been announced, and ceremonies such as Mater have been returning to being back to normal again. Although masks mandates have made school more difficult in the past, many have mentioned that it is something that people are getting used to. Junior Mags Roemer said “I do not think masks in school make as much of an impact anymore as we have adapted to them.” These adaptations are allowing students to interact with each other more, without letting the masks constrain them. Similarly, Freshman Fiona McNulty said “I have learned that it is still possible to meet new people and get to know them personally without knowing what their whole face looks like.” Although uncomfortable at first, students are adapting to these challenges, allowing them to be able to build relationships with those around them.