Would requiring KN-95 masks make school safer?


Photo by Grace Willis

Junior Olivia McCloskey pays close attention in class while wearing her KN-95 mask. “Since the KN-95 masks are said to be the best at keeping Covid away, I chose to wear one at school because it makes me feel safer,” McCloskey said.

Masks. The world has been wearing these small pieces of fabric for almost two years now and they have become like another accessory to outfits. Aside from the fun style choices that come with wearing a mask, safety is obviously the main point to wearing them. The objectively safest, and most easily accessible mask is the KN-95, yet MCPS should not require this type of personal protective equipment..

The KN-95 mask has a distinctive style with many colors that are all shaped like a flat cone at the front. Rather than the mask resting on one’s nose or mouth, the KN-95 sticks out. This may be comfortable for some but many people are more comfortable with surgical or cloth masks.

Why is the KN-95 mask so much better than any other mask? KN-95 masks filter out 95% of air particles which is higher than other comparable masks, such as cloth ones. The cone-like shape ensures that if particles do leak in the mask they won’t be able to reach the nose or mouth.

These masks may be safer, but are they more comfortable? The type of mask someone chooses to wear is mostly determined by personal preference and it should stay that way. MCPS has started handing out KN-95 masks to all students to ensure safety, but should these masks be required in school?

One reason these masks could be required is to remain in-person for the remainder of the school year. With rising covid cases, MCPS has started allocating covid materials to each student. Students have received KN-95 masks and at home Covid test kits. The hope in providing KN-95 masks is that they will be a safer option to slow the spread of Covid and avoid transitioning into the dreaded, online school.

With an extremely high number of students in MCPS, to require one type of mask seems near impossible and unrealistic. It would do more harm than good to require KN-95 masks. Challenges that come from backlash and regularly distributing the masks to ensure all students can comply with requirements would cause more trouble than necessary.

Masks were distributed in third period classes two weeks ago in an attempt to push KN-95 masks. The distribution of these masks opens up more options for students. Some students feel safer with a KN-95 mask, so it is important for the school to provide these masks to support students’ comfort levels. Although these masks help some students, other students who feel indifferent regarding masks should not be pushed to wear something they don’t feel comfortable in.

Similarly to clothing, students and staff have mask preferences on which ones fit the best, look the best and feel the best. It would be unfair to make someone wear a mask that makes them uncomfortable. Students should be able to feel comfortable in something they have to wear everyday.

The focus should be making sure everyone is wearing a mask no matter the type. Masks are a part of what is keeping us safe and slowing the spread of this virus. If everyone wears a mask we are doing our part in keeping everyone safe.