It’s been two years since I moved to this town.
And every single one was either spent in complete isolation, sequestered in a house to look upon the place I had moved with the fullest of hopes, or being in a strange science fiction school in a fairy tale town with everyone around me shrouded in a peculiar face cover that leaves the bottom of their faces completely to the imagination.
I didn’t know what many of my friends and colleagues looked like from the nose down; nonetheless, what reality with them unmasked would be.
It was strange. In a way, it became so a world without masks was far stranger than the world around me where people cowered with fear with the very thought of drinking out of a water bottle or feared political ostracisation for stopping to smell the roses in a public park.
Celebrities fell, and America’s culture war deepened. Some people turned something as simple as a piece of fabric shaped in a weird fashion into a weapon, and all of them turned it into armor
-for good or for worse.
However, last week, officially one week ago now as I sit at my keyboard, March 14th, the bans placed on the bottom halves of people’s faces lifted by the district. Children saw their teacher’s faces for the first time, and classrooms were once again alight with the full sound of education unmuffled, able to breathe.
The pure hesitation in the decision itself was evident on the first day.
3 out of 10 kids you could see lining the hallways had masks, and the discussion over the morality of the district’s decision still burned in the ashes of the mask mandates.
However, the coals died out as more and more kids took them off in the ensuing days. Now, the school’s hallways seem to transcend the cold concrete floors and dark heavy grey ceilings that used to hang over the children’s heads like rainclouds, and I think it suits AHS nicely.
This new, alien building feels like a home to the students. All it’s ever known were kids with masks and silent hallways, but now it pulses with life. The place has an aura of cheer and beauty; the birthright of every Anacortes high school since the victorian Columbian school of old.
I was never here to witness what school was like before. And I, along with the Seahawk staff, refuse to place an opinion on the efficacy or importance of masks to the American people during the time of crisis preceding this. But I can say for sure that the unmuffled sound of student’s joy, of laughter, of the promise that comes with the name Anacortes Highschool, is sweet.
In a similar spirit of the building, we also have a new superintendent, one that has only ever known the realities of COVID-19 in our wonderful little patch of paradise, Dr. Irish.
I asked him for a statement.
“It has been an amazing first week without masks. Students and staff are making their own choices about when or when not to wear masks, and people are responding respectfully. I have very much enjoyed seeing smiling faces. I feel the learning environment has greatly improved! I am thrilled we are not required to wear masks.”
May we hope that the prosperity of our high school and the safety of our town remains as strong and unbending as Anacortes’s unchanging character and that it means a new sun is rising over the darkness as the daffodils break the oppressive soils and the cheery laughter of our students blooms from underneath the covers that once sequestered them.