Students share reactions to mandatory mask-wearing


Heba Dalu

Students in Dr. Laura Govea’s 7th period Biomedical Engineering class are learning while wearing masks.

Alexis Herrera

When the Delta variant of COVID-19 started hitting Texas and the Austin area in late July and August, it brought the need for universal mask-wearing back as a necessary strategy to slow the spread.

And as the start of the school year approached in early August, and parents began worrying about children who are too young to be vaccinated, the battle over mask-wearing heated up in Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning local governments from requiring masks, made the issue even more contentious, forcing districts like Austin ISD to make a hard decision to defy his order and risk consequences if they decided to require masks.

Source: school district COVID-19 tracking dashboards
Rates of positive COVID-19 cases per 1,000 students at area school districts. Data compiled by the Austin American-Statesman. (Staff)

Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said the district made the decision to require masks in consultation with public health officials, other superintendents and AISD attorneys.

“This is not about being right. It’s about doing right,” she said in an interview on the Texas Standard radio show.

Parents and some students have made arguments about their beliefs that they think they should be able to decide for themselves if they wear a mask, but public health officials have said that masking is most effective if everyone wears them while indoors.

Some students complain about wearing a mask because they can cause glasses to fog, obscuring their vision or because they have breathing issues. Others simply believe that masks do not work to prevent infection from COVID-19. 

Since the beginning of the school year at Akins, most students have worn masks without a lot of major problems. There are some students who don’t always cover their noses or drop them to their chins when they are walking in the halls between classes, but they haven’t been as controversial at Akins as they have at other parts of the state. Regardless, students have strong opinions about having to wear them, making them a common topic of conversation on campus.

Sophomore Joshua Perez said that he thinks that public health officials should be able to require masks if that is what will protect students and the community from becoming infected or infecting others with COVID-19.

“They know what’s best for us,” he said.

Perez said that he isn’t bothered by the pain that mask-wearing causes to some people’s ears. Overall, He said he would rate the pain a five out of 10, but overall it’s something that he’s gotten used to. 

He said that he thinks masks should be mandated. 

“There’s just so many elderly people in the hallways, in other places for us,” he said. It might not hit us as hard, but it can end other precious lives.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Perez said that he didn’t mind having to wear a mask. 

“I mean I really didn’t want to catch the virus. I would wear it. That is what prevents it from happening,” he said. 

They know what’s best for us.

— Sophomore Joshua Perez

Perez said that his feelings about wearing a mask still haven’t changed to this day and that he’s gotten used to it. 

When taking off his mask around other students to eat breakfast or lunch, Joshua said that he hasn’t really thought about it too much, but still doesn’t mind. 

Around his friends, Perez said that he will still make an effort to keep his distance from others. 

“I stay around people, but I won’t be right in their face,” he said. 

Freshman Ester Garcia-Garcia also said that she thinks we should let other people decide what’s good for our health and whether we should wear a mask or not. 

She said that wearing a mask doesn’t actually hurt her ears at all. 

She believes that there should be a mask mandate in place “because you’d get sick and get other people sick so you’re spreading all the germs,” she said. 

Garcia-Garcia doesn’t believe that wearing a mask will prevent the virus because “you’re still going to get COVID and the other illnesses either way,” she said. 

When the pandemic first started, Ester said she had neutral feelings about wearing a mask and her feelings haven’t changed to this day. 

Garcia-Garcia said that she’s pretty comfortable when taking off her mask to eat or drink around other students and continues to hang out with her friends “just fine.”

Freshman Hope Caleb said that she thinks all people should have the right to willingly choose to wear a mask, but that we should still wear one because it’ll help slow the spread of COVID in our school and community. 

Caleb said that wearing a mask used to hurt her ears when she wore glasses, but now wears contacts to avoid that problem.

If they think it’s useful then yes. If not, then no.

— Freshman Hope Caleb


When asked if wearing a mask should be mandated, she said that “it depends on people’s opinions.”

“If they think it’s useful then yes. If not, then no,” she said.

She said that while there are studies that show that wearing a mask will prevent the virus, “you never know honestly.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, she said that mask-wearing didn’t really affect her as much since she was just indoors all the time.

Today, she said that though wearing a mask is annoying, she’ll do whatever helps. 

When taking off her mask around other people to eat breakfast or lunch, she said that she feels fine since she’s not really around people too much.

“I have seen friends, but others I haven’t seen before I don’t feel safe around, it really depends,” she said. 

Though she’s with friends a lot, she said that she doesn’t talk to other people that often unless she has to.