Students unmask during outdoor music class

With Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” and Mariah Carey’s “Make it Happen” blaring at the front of West Ada’s Cecil D. Andrus Elementary on Friday morning, fifth grade students stood in lines under the covered front of the school to hide from the rain.

Steve Jones, the school’s music teacher, quickly took the opportunity to teach the students a lesson in acoustics, as their singing that day was much louder than it would be in the adjacent grass field.

Jones is holding many of his classes outdoors this spring, allowing students to enjoy the warmer weather and also taking advantage of new mask restrictions in the school district. On May 11, West Ada trustees voted unanimously to change the district’s mask requirements. Masks are required while indoors but are optional while outdoors and during meals for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

After spending the past year adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, students are now adjusting to the loosened rules.

“It’s hard because people don’t have to wear the masks any more,” said Ellie Marston. “It’s almost awkward to not wear one now. It almost feels like I don’t have any clothes on.”

“You hate it and want to take it off, but now you can’t,” Tyler Holland added. At Andrus Elementary, the students who aren’t wearing masks during recess are told to leave them on their desk so they don’t lose them. Tyler said he will get all the way to the playground before he remembers that he was going to take his mask off.

Students do not have to wear masks during recess, when walking between classrooms outside, and during classes like music and physical education. West Ada and Boise school districts are two of the only districts in the state that are requiring masks in the final stretch of the school year.

“We’re outside more than normal, but maybe not as often as you might think,” said Ellie.

“But it feels like we are outside as much as possible now,” added Elena Niederhauser.

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Masks were required for the entirety of the school year in West Ada, and the students said they didn’t have any problems wearing the masks while in school. “Nobody likes wearing the masks. But I get why we have to wear them,” Ellie said.

Agreeing with his classmate, Tyler added that there are some students who had some issues with the masks when in school all day.

“Especially for those like me, who have asthma,” said Tyler. “It’s sometimes hard to breathe through the masks.”

Kaden Kuchynka added that it took him a long time to figure out how to comfortably wear a mask while also wearing his glasses.

As the year went on, and mask collections grew, the students also said masks were seen more as accessories to their outfits and were worn fashionably.

“They can bring out your personality,” Elena said.

Students who want to continue wearing masks at all times are still able to. Several members of Jones’ fifth grade class wore masks during music class on Friday.

Nik Streng

About Nik Streng

Nik Streng graduated with his bachelors degree in creative writing from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., in 2013 and graduated with his master’s in journalism from the University of Oregon. 

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