Testing is in full effect as we speak. School administrators and testing profesionals are working to get staff and students at their best in preparation for summative testing. Social-emotional health is a priority nationwide, as the unfortunate pressure of accountability also resumes. We certainly do not need any added anxiety that may impact student performance. See highlights below of concerns about bullying and anxiety following lossening of mask mandates and prepare to support and accommodate students accordingly during testing:
Masks become optional
- School leaders ask for respect for individual masking choices as more communities make masks optional.
- School systems are urging compassion and understanding for staff and students who choose to continue to wear face masks even if the district has dropped its masking requirements.
- School leaders acknowledge not everyone will make an easy transition to maskless campuses and some are upset about the change.
- New York – students and staff will have the choice of wearing masks in schools and on school buses; related bullying or harassment will not be tolerated.
- Michigan – mix of emotions after the district relaxed its mask mandate; call for kindness, compassion, and grace.
- New York, Maryland, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina – announced plans to make masks optional.
- Shiloh Middle School in Shiloh, Illinois – masks became optional earlier last month; some students and staff have continued to wear masks.
- The City of Philadelphia – planned to end mandatory masking in schools on March 9, if community COVID-19 levels remain low, but it will require masks for the week following spring break to avoid a post-break surge in cases.
- School leaders can help their communities adjust to changing policies by emphasizing the need to respect individuals’ mask-wearing choices is one way.
- Schools can be proactive by being explicit with this messaging through professional development and in classroom lessons.
- School staff should recognize when students are being kind and understanding to those choosing to wear masks even when they are not required.
- School systems need to be prepared to respond to bullying or harassment if they occur.
- School staff should also recognize there may be heightened anxiety about removing masks in schools. For students struggling with those feelings, gradual exposure to maskless situations could help with that adjustment.
- Parents and school staff support either mask-wearing or maskless students by helping them prepare short responses to questions or comments they may receive.
- Test administrators should monitor testing enviornments, give reminders of respect for mask choices during testing, and be prepared to accommodate anxious students.
- Fights and disputes over masking will likely dissipate as COVID-19 cases and risk levels continue to decrease.
- In the meantime, we have to ensure that our kids are able to be set up for success, to be kind to others and empathetic to and respectful of others’ choices.