With the mask mandate over at Leesville, most of the student body seems satisfied.
COVID- 19 is no longer a worry for many, and the hassle of having to remember a mask each morning is gone for a large portion of Leesville’s students. But for some, masks are still a daily reality, and wearing them every day is the same necessity it was before the mandate ended. For these students, now a minority in a largely maskless school, a face covering is probably even more essential.
Sloane Mekonis is a junior at Leesville. Even before the mask mandate ended, she wore her mask consistently every day, and everyone else taking theirs off hasn’t changed that at all. Aside from when she’s eating or drinking, she said, she keeps it on all the time, and for her, it’s not a matter of fear or pressure: “Covid isn’t completely gone.”
“Even though I’m vaccinated,” Mekonis said, “I don’t want to risk giving it to other people who might be immuno-compromised or have family members who are immuno-compromised.” She has a point: Covid cases seem to be in the upper 2,000 range per week in North Carolina, with about 38% of children and teens having received one or more doses of a vaccine — and for Mekonis, it’s best to be on the safe side.
Devin Broom, like all other seniors, has only had one mask-free full year at Leesville. Still, he chooses to wear his regularly: always in the halls, and unless it’s quiet, often in class. “The last two times that we thought the Covid situation would get better, then there were variants that popped up and it got the opposite of better,” Broom says with a laugh, recalling the Delta and Omicron variants that swept the nation and affected student’s return to school and removal of masks.
Commenting on the stigma of masks at Leesville— either positive or negative— Broom said, “Yeah, in both directions.” He chooses his words carefully, but doesn’t pick sides in the oft-debated topic: “There’s certain groups of people who never wore masks in the first place, and they’ll ask you why you’re still wearing a mask, but then there’s also other groups of people who will ridicule you for not wearing a mask.”
It can be a touchy subject, but, especially in an environment like Leesville, it’s an important one to discuss.
Andrew Southard slips his mask on right after playing his instrument. Southard is a senior, and masks up “almost all the time,” to stay protected in Leesville’s often crowded halls. “I think everybody should be wearing masks until this whole thing ends,” he said, commenting on the majority of Leesville students that choose not to, before commenting on himself: “I’m not gonna complain, not having to wear a mask in Band.” This is a view shared by plenty; in extracurriculars like band, chorus, or sports, it can be a relief to not have to wear a face covering that might make it harder to participate.
Each of the three students agreed, in almost as many words, on students that don’t wear masks often: “It’s their choice.”
Leesville’s student body has “to make that decision for yourself… whether you feel comfortable with that or not,” Broom said. At the end of the day– and every on-campus hour before then– it does boil down to a matter of choice. Masks are optional, but with some choosing to go the extra mile and mask up daily, Leesville is just a bit safer.
Hi! My name is Brendan Shore and I am a staff writer for The Mycenaean. I am an avid photographer and rock climber!