On September 1, 2021 the Volusia County school board voted (3-2) passing a face covering policy that went into effect on September 7. The mandate requires kindergarten through 12th grade students to wear a face covering until October 15, 2021. As of September 14, 2021, parents have the unrestricted option to “opt out” their children or submit a medical exemption. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adolescents 12 to 17 years old are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
How do the youngest students feel about wearing a face covering and do they understand why masks are worn? For this report, I interviewed 25 Volusia County students about wearing a face covering at school, with the focus on those who are ineligible for a vaccine (ages 6 to 12 years old). Below are direct quotes from students who participated in a phone interview with me. The children were given enough time to think and respond (and yes, sometimes the silence seemed to last forever). Parents were given instructions before the call to help their children focus, and were told to refrain from influencing or encouraging answers.
Kids and Face Masks in Volusia County Schools
The questions asked were: “Do you know what a face covering is used for?” and “How would you feel if everyone wore a mask at school?”
1st grade, 6 years old: “A face covering is used to keep you safe and not get sick. I would be happy if everyone wore a face mask at school so other kids don’t get the virus or get sick.”
1st grade, 6 years old: “I don’t know what a mask is used for. I would not feel good if everyone had to wear a mask to school. I want everyone to be the same.”
2nd grade, 7 years old: “A face covering is used to keep germs away. If everyone wore a mask at school, I would feel safe.”
3rd grade, 9 years old: “A mask is used to cover your nose and mouth. It would be annoying if everyone at school had to wear a mask. I like to see people’s faces. I can understand what they are saying more clearly without a mask.”
4th grade, 9 years old: “I don’t know what they are used for. I would feel weird if everyone had to wear one at school. It’s against the dress code or something. They are really uncomfortable. I would wear a face shield if I had to wear one to school.”
5th grade, 10 years old: “A face covering is used to prevent viruses and illnesses. Our community has tried wearing masks and not wearing them. There is proof COVID cases decline when we all wear them at school.”
5th grade, 11 years old: “A face covering is used to stop the spread of germs. They can be uncomfortable, but help stop the spread of all illnesses, not just Coronavirus.”
8th grade, 13 years old: “A face covering is used to keep all illnesses out of the nose and mouth. It wasn’t that bad when we were required to wear them. Face masks are good, but they can be hot and it is one more thing I have to remember to pack in the morning.”
Volusia County Schools (VCS) report there are 61,461 students currently enrolled. According to a public records request published by WFTV Channel 9, some VCS mask numbers are as follows: 8,728 parent opt-outs received as of September 25 and 1,073 medical exemptions received. Less than 100 families are in non-compliance (students not wearing a face covering without opt out) and 230 students were recently withdrawn from the district (unclear if any are mask related). *Only opt-out numbers include Charter schools.