Just below four incidents of improper mask wearing are noted by teachers in each class period, according to a new poll of 40 science class periods conducted by Central Times. One class period reported 11 cases of improper mask wearing.
The poll was conducted after an administration meeting on Friday, Sept. 3 and a video announcement from Principal William “Bill” Wiesbrook reminding students to wear their masks properly on the following Wednesday, Sept. 8. The survey ran until Tuesday, Sept. 14th.
According to this poll, incorrect mask wearing is present at NCHS. Anecdotally, Wiesbrook agrees.
“I have seen some students not wearing their masks properly,” Wiesbrook said. “As a letter grade… our passing period grade gets a grade of C.”
Overall, however, Wiesbrook believes NCHS students are doing a good job.
“[I went to the hallway] I saw 95% of students are complying [and] wearing their mask properly and that’s awesome,” Wiesbrook said. “So, I don’t feel this is a catastrophe at Naperville Central High School, but I know it can be improved.”
Reminders, according to Central Dean Kathy Howat, seem to be one way to increase correct mask wearing.
“I believe, nobody’s intent is to… break this rule. I think people are human and we make mistakes sometimes,” Howat said. “We have to give ourselves a little break sometimes, and some time to get into a new habit or a pattern of behavior.”
While non-compliance has remained relatively rare, the mandate hasn’t been without controversy. Public comments during District 203 school board meetings often address mask policies. The Aug. 16 school board meeting even included a 30 minute recess due to improper mask wearing by attendees.
Some students like senior Nicholas Badrjlica don’t support the mask mandate.
“I don’t support the mask mandate [because] I think masks are ineffective,” Badrjlica said. “I [think] it should be “my body my choice.” If you want to, you can [wear masks].”
Nonetheless, staff at Naperville Central will be enforcing the mask mandate, passed by both the district board and Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
“The bottom line is, if they’re not going to wear a mask, then they can’t be in the building,” Howat said. “That would be our last resort. We wouldn’t [want] to send a student home, we would try everything. We want kids to be in school, but the mask is a must.”
Students will have to make a choice: mask up, or stay home.
“I do [wear my mask],” Badrljica said. “But I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to.”
No students have been suspended due to improper mask wearing, but some families have chosen to homeschool their children in response to the policy, Wiesbrook said.
School nurse Erika Kelly says that Central treats masking seriously because they’re an important part of the multi-layered mitigation system against COVID-19.
“Masks are one of our most important mitigation strategies for preventing the spread of COVID,” Kelly said. “Any type of public health entity right now is recommending, especially for schools, a layered mitigation strategy. That’s masks, plus vaccinations, plus distancing when we can plus contact tracing. All of these things put together [are] what will help keep everyone who’s here as safe as possible, and masks are a huge part of it.”
Furthermore, Kelly says that masks work.
“We know that masks work… they’re recommended by the [IDPH, CDC and] the American Academy of Pediatrics ” Kelly said. “These are our public health experts and we need to take their recommendations very seriously because they are the ones who have been looking at the data.”
A new mask policy, that students must put their mask on once 25 minutes has passed in their lunch period, with an exception of freshmen returning from link, was announced by Wiesbrook in a video on Sept. 8.