NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

How students’ lives have changed without masks

On Wednesday, March 9 the presidents of Massachusetts’ fifteen community colleges released a statement announcing that the college campuses would transition to mask optional environments.  NECC announced that as of March 21 its campuses would be mask optional.

After almost two years of wearing masks, this transition was a big change for many students.

After about two weeks without masks, students are sharing how this adjustment has impacted their lives.

One of these students is Maddie Marshall, a dual enrollment student at Northern Essex Community College (NECC).

Marshall stated, “It is a relief after two years of COVID to get back to some form of normalcy. I feel like I am able to interact with people better and it is nice to get to see people smile.”

Gianna McKeown, a dual enrollment student at NECC, agreed with the importance of seeing others’ smiles.

She added, “The lifting of the mask mandate allows for non-verbal communication that has been lacking throughout the pandemic.”

There are many positives that come with the lifting of the mask mandate, however, the shift from masks to no masks was rapid.

Quick transitions can always be challenging and can be anxiety-inducing for some students.

Avery Hochheiser, a dual enrollment student at NECC, initially chose to keep wearing her mask when the mandate was lifted.

Hochhesier said, “At first I was a little nervous to take off my mask after it was a part of my life for so long. It gave me a sense of comfort when everything was so uncertain.”

After a few days, Hochheiser decided to take off her mask.

After taking off her mask Hochheiser said, “I felt nervous but excited to get into a new routine.”

Whether wearing a mask or not, the students all expressed that everyone had been supportive of the decision they had made.

When Avery decided to continue wearing her mask,  she stated, “The students around me respected that it was my personal choice and everyone continued to treat me with kindness.”

McKeown added that masks haven’t gone away completely and it is nice to still have them there when cold season comes around.

She said “One of the few downsides to taking off masks is a lot of people are starting to get colds again. However, the school going mask optional has allowed me to not wear one when I’m comfortable and wear one when I am sick to keep others healthy.”

All in all it is a personal decision whether or not students and teachers decide to wear a mask.

Many students have expressed that the school environment has been a supportive environment and it was comforting for many to get back to some form of normalcy. In the statement from the Massachusetts Community College Presidents they said that they would continue to “closely monitor conditions” and reserve the right to change the mask-optional status if necessary, however they are optimistic that they will not have to.