Reaction To No Mask Requirements At The High School

Catherine Komp, Copy Editor

Photo courtesy of Josie Weber

Even before the conclusion of the 2020-21 school year, the question of masking in the 

upcoming year began to circulate. Parents, teachers, administrators, health professionals, and others from all walks of life began to weigh in, creating some tension between those with opposing viewpoints. 

In August, the Minnetonka School Board, lead by superintendent Dennis Peterson, released the Return-To-School Safe Learning Plan that laid out various masking, distancing, and quarantine protocols for the school year, noting that they are subject to change and will be reevaluated in October. This included mandatory masking for teachers and students in grades K-8, and strongly recommended, but not required, masking at the high school. Quarantine requirements vary based on status of vaccination or recent contraction of COVID-19. 

The response to the decision was mixed. It was met with both praise from some and frustration from others, some seeking a stricter masking policy at the high school and others opposed to the mask mandate and quarantine requirements at the elementary and middle schools. Dana Zucker, ‘23, falls into the first category, while other groups, like the 

Minnetonka Parents Association, fall into the latter. 

Zucker described feeling surprised when the decision was announced and noted feeling a bit anxious before starting school. She talked about her fear of contracting the virus, especially the Delta variant, or spreading it to an at-risk family member from an unmasked, unvaccinated student. Zucker, who chooses to mask at school, felt that the school rushed into the decision to nix mask and distancing requirements this year. 

“They want to rush back to the pre-COVID normal, without any safety precautions, but the reality is that there is a new normal, which should include both a mask mandate and a hybrid option for students to prioritize safety for all,” said Zucker.

She also argues that the safest way for the school to get back to the “old” normal is for more students to get vaccinated, especially in an age and place where they are so easily accessible. 

The Minnetonka Parent Association disagrees. In a public letter to the school board in 

August, written by Zach Proctor, they condemned the K-8 mask mandate as “unacceptable,” and cited the lack of a Philosophical Exemption policy, which is implemented at Pepperdine University, as part of their concerns. 

The MPA also attacked what they deem illegal contact tracing and quarantine requirements based on vaccination status, claiming the school would be discriminating against unvaccinated students. They also expressed concern about the potential for medical malpractice in pop-up vaccination clinics, two of which were held at the middle schools last spring. 

The School Board, whose positions were also threatened by the MPA in their letter, held a last minute meeting before school started to discuss these concerns, but ultimately stuck by the Back-To-School Plan, for better or worse. 

When asked to comment, school nurse Angie Vanderheyden was unable to provide an 

opinion on masking, due to present school policy, but reinforced the Plan statement. 

Vanderheyden said, “If you’re looking for more information about the benefits of masking, the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health are excellent resources.”