Mask Up, Eagles

With state and local COVID cases still high, mask policy remains in effect at The Academy

Mask+Up%2C+Eagles

At the end of last year, students and faculty were told that Stratford would start the 2021 year  being mask-optional. 

COVID-19 cases were dropping and things were beginning to seem as normal as they could. Many school events began to be mask-optional in the fall.

However, just a few days before the start of school, Head of School Mr. Logan Bowlds sent an email to parents that students and faculty would be returning to school with masks for two weeks. 

“We (Stratford) did receive a decent amount of negative feedback. But, I think what everybody ultimately came around to understanding was that we did it last year and it kept us open, so we’re doing it this year to stay open,” Mr. Bowlds said. “We are watching other schools send home grade levels or entire divisions at a time because of cases. We don’t have the cases here, so clearly if that school has the cases and doesn’t wear masks, and we do not have the cases and are wearing masks- what’s the difference? The masks.”

“Based on the evidence we’ve been seeing, we can still spread it very easily whether vaccinated or not. We want everyone to get vaccinated because even if you catch it, the symptoms are extremely less significant compared to those who aren’t. Getting vaccinated won’t get rid of masks, but it is going to help your health significantly.””

— Nurse Victoria Lee

After the school’s administration reviewed the mask policy, the two weeks quickly turned into another two weeks. The main idea of the mask policy is to keep Stratford’s doors open, opposite to other schools in town and in Georgia, who opened and rapidly closed after masks were not mandated since the beginning. 

No one enjoys wearing masks, but students and faculty are willing to wear them to stay on campus and enjoy the returning activities and possibilities that were common pre-covid.

“If you’re vaccinated, I don’t feel like you should have to wear a mask because you don’t have as high of a risk of spreading it,” senior Rachel Toon said. But, if everyone wears their masks, then we should definitely get done with wearing them soon.”

“I like the policy because it keeps us (the students), the staff, and our families safe,’’ senior Jack Minette said. “I think it’s fair for vaccinated students to have to wear a mask because even if someone does have the vaccine they can still transmit COVID, especially the Delta variant.” 

The administration is closely following cases and health expert recommendations to determine how long the mask policy will be in place. 

“I really don’t think it will be that long, probably just over the next few weeks. Health experts say that we are on a surge and when we hit the peak of cases, we will begin dropping back down and that’s when it will be safe to remove masks,” Mr. Bowlds said. 

To keep the number of cases at Stratford low, especially after summer, school nurse Mrs. Victoria Lee closely monitors positive cases and direct exposures by communicating with families to determine who else is positive and exposed. This year, there were some changes in the process of identifying cases and exposures. 

“If there is a case I have to contact the family and get a couple of names for the form I have to submit to the Department of Public Health who will do the contact tracing. This year I am not doing in-depth contact tracing,” Nurse Lee said. 

Even with increasing numbers of vaccinated students and faculty, research reveals it is still as easy to contract the coronavirus and spread it.

“Based on the evidence we’ve been seeing, we can still spread it very easily whether vaccinated or not. We want everyone to get vaccinated because even if you catch it, the symptoms are extremely less significant compared to those who aren’t. Getting vaccinated won’t get rid of masks, but it is going to help your health significantly,” Nurse Lee said. 

As the Stratford community continues to work on their joint effort towards keeping campus open with less rigid restrictions in place, the future of the mask policy continues to be a blurry path. 

Updates and regular notifications from the administration will inform the community if any changes are made. 

Mr. Bowlds, Nurse Lee, and four health advisors who are also Stratford parents, will be in charge of when it is safe to lift the mask policy. 

Until then, mask up eagles.