Educators and students across North Alabama are excitedly preparing for the start of the 2021/2022 school year. While they check their supply lists a big question still looms. Will schools require masks?
This spring saw a full roll-out of three different highly effective vaccines. Currently, anyone age 12 and up is eligible to receive a vaccine, and they are readily available at no cost. However, vaccination rates in Alabama are some of the lowest in the nation and well below the 70% scientists have warned necessary for any type of herd immunity. This leaves parents in North Alabama split on finding a balance between personal freedoms and what’s best for the community at large.
To see that encapsulated in just two of the comments we received. These two survey comments came in one minute apart.
We need to do everything we can to protect our babies from Covid.
Let people make their own decisions.
But this isn’t a decision that will be left up to parents. It’s the hard work of school administrators, health departments, and local/state/national politicians to make these choices. Of course, their job is also to listen to the community, which is why we thought it would be helpful to gather a decent sized sample and see what Huntsville-area parents are thinking. What we found wasn’t terribly surprising – parents are pretty split – but in some ways was revealing of the general direction Madison County seems to be leaning.
1,181 area parents participated in our short survey. As you can see below, the vast majority had an elementary age student. This wasn’t a huge surprise since the issue affects these students the most (currently this age group is unable to get vaccinated).
Before we go further in sharing and *kind of* analyzing this data, we want to stress that this is a very informal survey of our readers and other parents who are active on social media which by its very nature makes this a skewed perspective. Still, it’s a lot of parents who had no reason not to answer truthfully and as such we think is worth examining.
Why Trust Us?
Have you ever been scrolling through social media and noticed that everyone you see commenting on ____ (insert random controversial topic) agrees with you and it makes you wonder why anyone would think differently?
Congratulations! You’ve just found yourself in a social media bubble. Maybe you have done this intentionally to help with your mental health and that can be a legitimate way to enjoy social media. However, if you’ve done that, you also want to be sure you are getting your information about the world from varied and trusted sources because social media isn’t that. It’s not varied and it’s not really to be trusted.
Which is why we wanted to do this survey. We wanted to know what other local parents were really thinking about this complex issue. Not just what our friends were thinking, not just what the over-opinionated on social media were thinking, but random/normal/neighborhood parents.
Should Masks be Required? A 60/40 Split
Roughly 40% of all of those surveyed believed there should be No Mask requirements regardless of vaccination status, or local COVID levels.
After the wild ride of last school year, the emotional and mental health of our children is at a higher risk than their physical health from COVID-19. Masks prolong the state of fear that has surrounded COVID-19. Our children need to learn confidence.
I understand if kids want to wear masks. That’s their right. But imposing that on everyone, infringes on my rights. I think you should wear a mask if that makes you feel safe and comfortable. But mandating everyone wear one is excessive force. The kids suffered greatly last year, and they need to have normalcy. It was so hard to communicate snd understand teachers and students that all wore masks.
That leaves 60% that believe some type of mask requirement should be made, but that group was split about when, how, and for whom those requirements apply.
Right at 36% believe masks should be mandated on the first day of school for everyone at school, regardless of vaccination status or age.
I think masks will be necessary until enough adults and children are vaccinated. Madison City is extremely overcrowded. Even with the new school opening, the classes have 20-25 kids in them, in a very small space. If they are not going to have masks, they should at least keep windows and doors open in order to maintain adequate airflow.
The rate of vaccination in the county is so low, but the rate of people without masks on when out and about is very high. This makes it clear that we absolutely cannot trust a policy that requires only unvaccinated people to be masked to keep our unvaccinated children safe due to the abuse of the policy by those who are unvaccinated and just don’t want to wear a mask. The health and safety of students, especially those who cannot be vaccinated, should be the school’s number 1 priority.
Another roughly 18% believe masks should be required for all unvaccinated adults/kids.
For 12 yrs and older, if you’re vaccinated – no mask should be required.
Once the younger children are eligible for the vaccine students at all grade levels should be allowed to remove their masks after being fully vaccinated.
Finally just under 8% believe masks should be required only if/when we reach numbers similar to the peak we experienced in Winter 2020.
It should follow the numbers. Numbers go up? Masks go on. Numbers stay low? Masks optional.
BONUS for the number nerds. 🙂
Since this issue disproportionally affects elementary age students we did apply a filter to see if there was any notable difference between the main numbers and those for elementary parents. As you can see by the chart below, other than a small shift from No (36% vs 40%) which appeared to go to Maybe (29% vs. 25%) the differences were negligible.
So, there you have it. Are you surprised by the results? Have you changed the way you think about this issue? Is the answer clear as mud now? Should masks be required at schools this year?
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Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.