It’s been two years since educators and students had to adapt to a new way of learning after the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the country and wreaked havoc on Queens. As the two-year anniversary approaches, educators, parents and students are cautiously optimistic about the future.
Maspeth High School Assistant Principal Jesse Pachter was excited to take his mask off Monday, March 7, and finally greet his students with a smile for the first time in two years. The mask mandate was lifted on March 7, marking a big milestone for city schools after COVID-19 hit the city.
A lot has changed over the past two years in education, Pachter said. Schools went from fully remote learning to remote options to regular in-person schooling this year. Now, more and more masks are coming off each day.
Pachter said he noticed about 50% of students electing to take their masks off during the first week after the mandate was lifted. And though he feels this is an excellent step toward moving forward, he knows that it’s not quite that easy.
“There are a lot of positive things that are happening right now in education, but it’s going to take a while — people have experienced a traumatic event,” Pachter said. “We cannot just expect things to go back to the way they were for quite some time. There are still students who ask if we’re going to close again and go fully remote — that’s a real fear. We cannot expect students to come in, take their masks off and suddenly be the 2019 version of themselves.”
Many realize that there has been a lot of progress and positive change in schools, such as students finally being able to see their friends’ and teachers’ faces. However, people know from experience that this pandemic is unpredictable — causing education, in turn, to be uncertain.
One student, Veronica Witkowski, a senior at Maspeth High School, said that she feels like it’s too early to be taking masks off in schools. Witkowski is just not convinced that we’ve turned a corner yet. She decided to keep her mask on due to apprehensions and an immunocompromised