Students, staff comment on Hills going mask-optional

A month after Governor Phil Murphy lifted the mask mandate in New Jersey, Hills students and staff voice their opinions on the district going mask-optional.


On Feb. 7, the Pascack Valley Regional High School District Board of Education announced that under Governor Phil Murphy’s mask mandate lift, the district will be going mask-optional. March 7 was the first day that this became effective. Students and staff members shared their thoughts on going mask-optional. 

Anonymous senior: “I think it’s a really bad decision, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Covid-19 cases go sharply on the rise. In my opinion, the state should’ve kept the mask mandate until the end of the school year.”

Anonymous freshman: “I’m glad that the pandemic is coming to an end.”

Julianne Downes, culinary teacher: “So happy I can finally breathe while speaking to the class and won’t have a headache at the end of the day.” 

Shaan Dalal, junior: “I am glad they are not forcing us to wear masks.”

Ethan Kaufman, junior: “I think things with Covid-19 have gotten better to the point where making masks optional is a good decision, and hopefully people remain cautious since making them mandatory again could easily happen.”

Gail Gluck, freshman: “I think it is a good time for the district to go mask-optional. The Covid-19 cases have drastically decreased and the weekly cases are starting to go down.”

Katie Verde, sophomore: “I have mixed feelings about masks becoming optional, only because we are in such close quarters for five days a week, six plus hours a day. I think people should do whatever feels most comfortable, but I will continue to wear my mask.”

Anonymous freshman: “I’m happy with [the district going mask-optional].”

Anonymous junior: “I agree that masking works to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but now that anyone who wants a vaccine can get one and hospitalizations are down, I see no problem with going mask optional. If you’re unvaccinated by choice or aren’t allowed to get vaccinated and get Covid-19 from us being mask optional, there is medical help available. If hospitals get overwhelmed again, like at the start of this, it would be important to put masking back in place. A lot of students have been vaccinated, boosted, and have had Covid-19 which also makes it less likely to have an outbreak here.” 

Anonymous staff member: “I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Anonymous sophomore: “I want to wait a few weeks before taking my mask off to see if going mask-optional causes a significant rise in Covid-19 cases in our school.” 

Anonymous staff member: “[Going mask-optional] is how it should have been from the start.”  

Anonymous junior: “I believe that [the district’s] plan to make masking optional is the wrong choice. While completely enforcing the policy will never work 100% of the time, and there are obvious breaches of logic (such as taking masks off in a crowded cafeteria for an hour), mandatory masking still helps limit Covid-19 and other diseases. People can and will protest being forced to wear a mask, but they are in a public building with hundreds of people in it. The sacrifice that they have to make for lower spread of diseases is well worth it.

The district claimed that they “chose to not make them mandatory because ‘the [Covid-19] infection rate is dropping quickly.’” But like many similar Covid-19 measures, masking works, and because of this it leads to lower [infection] rates. The lower infection rate is not a sign of a lack of need for masks, but proof that they greatly help. When students are allowed to attend Hills without masks, the Covid-19 rate will increase, that much is obvious. And should it increase sufficiently, the district will see that it has no choice but to return to mandatory masking. This style of changing health regulations based on the current and predicted rate of Covid-19 infections has led to sporadic and constantly changing public health measures, which anger and confuse people for good reason.” 

Fourteen people completed the survey; 57.1% of them said that they are choosing to wear a mask while 42.9% said that they are choosing to go mask-optional.

Those that are currently choosing to wear a mask also expressed if they would consider taking it off before the end of the school year.


Another survey that was sent to the school the week prior received 280 responses. 80% of the respondents were students and 18.9% were staff members. 1.2% of the voters fell under the categories of principal, vice principal, and kitchen staff. 

Of those that voted, 61.4% said that they will not be wearing a mask, while 38.6% said that they would be wearing one. Within those that said they would be wearing a mask, 7.9% said that they plan on wearing it until the end of the school year while 30.7% will wear it until they feel comfortable taking it off.

At the regular BOE meeting on Feb. 28, interim superintendent Daniel Fishbein said that the district would only return to wearing masks if Bergen County falls under the “orange” or “red” level of Covid-19, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C)’s guidelines. The colors on the scale from least severe to most severe rank green, yellow, orange, and red. According to Fishbein and the C.D.C., Bergen County is in a “green” or low level of the virus.
C.D.C. guidelines for Covid-19 levels.
The Covid-19 level for Bergen County is green according to the C.D.C.