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Students, teachers getting used to optional masks in Gulfport School District

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 5:52 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s back to class for the Admirals after Thanksgiving break, now with the option of covering up or not.

“The kids are excited to come back without a mask,” Gulfport High Principal Wendi Husley said. “They are definitely looking forward to it. They’ve been asking a lot of questions about getting back to normal and what’s that going to look like.”

It’s the first day that face coverings are up to families to decide across the Gulfport School District, and some students are still getting used to the new freedom.

“(Look at) all these lovely faces,” sophomore Devon Jones said. “You don’t know if somebody is sad or mad or glad, but now I see everybody is happy.”

Besides seeing teachers’ and classmates’ facial expressions again, students are eager to ditch the masks and let their skin breathe.

“It really messed up my acne. The sweat gets trapped in the mask,” Jones said.

Teachers are also looking forward to better communicating their lessons in class without a mask muffling their voices, but some said they will mask up if they need to.

“If I’m working with students at their desks I will put my mask on. It will probably be the safe thing to do,” Gulfport High math teacher Scott Wedgeworth said. “You know, since we do have that option, I might as well wear a mask and I would think that would be the same for students. They probably may choose to wear a mask if they’re not feeling well one day.”

Although the mandate is lifted, officials said masks did help curb COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations among other things.

“We haven’t had the flu issues and the typical sicknesses that kids get,” Husley said. “So the masks have helped in certain ways.”

School leaders said that making face covers optional is a step toward normalcy and they hope that the move provides some relief to students after nearly two years of learning through the pandemic.

“It will probably be a lot more fun,” Jones said. “We can do a lot more stuff.”

While students dream of more dances and activities, officials said they will keep an eye on COVID-19 in case they have to pivot yet again.

“We know how to be prepared as teachers, as a school, as a district, our leadership. They know how to prepare for these things,” Wedgeworth said. “I think that because we know how to prepare, then it will make us ready in the event that something comes. We can be on top of it.”

In the meantime, Admirals said they will continue navigating high school through the global pandemic.

“That’s what our school is about, you know. Pushing through adversity,” Jones said.

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