Northridge High Joins Mask Debate

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Northridge High School in northwestern Greeley has become the epicenter of a new debate about mask mandates. Schools in Greeley District 6 currently do not require masks unless a certain COVID-19 test positivity rate is reached, while neighboring school districts in Fort Collins and Loveland require masks full-time. Photo by Matilda Priesendorf.

The argument around masks is still in full swing, and with cases of COVID-19 rising in Greeley the conversation is entering District 6 schools. 

Northridge High School was one of the District 6 schools that implemented a temporary mask mandate on Sept. 7. The mandate lasted 28 days in order to stop the spread of cases in the building. District 6 monitors COVID-19 infection rates throughout individual schools, and a mask mandate is implemented if a school has reached a 2% probable positive case rate within the student and staff community. 

The mandate sparked outrage among some students and parents, as they felt that the choice of masks should be left to individuals. On the morning of Sept. 7, a group of about 30 students and several parents stood outside Northridge High School protesting the mandate. Dr. Insoon Olson, principal of Northridge, expressed her thoughts on the matter. 

“I believe in students having a voice and I believe they have the right to do a peaceful protest, that is appropriate,” Insoon Olson said. “As long as it doesn’t deter from inside the classroom learning, or doesn’t become a huge distraction.” 

The protest lasted a few hours as students dispersed, though several students continued to protest throughout the week. 

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The protest wasn’t the only issue regarding masks at Northridge, as student Wiley Dickinson was asked to leave and later suspended after refusing to wear a mask. 

“I was rudely asked to leave the school building for not wearing a mask and I did what any student should. I politely declined instead electing to return to my classes,” Dickinson said. ”…I was harassed by multiple authoritative figures including the assistant head of security for the district, Steven Brown. While this bullying occurred I had no other choice than to stand my ground and defend myself.” 

Dickinson explained he was not given any alternative lesson plans and believes the school denied his education. 

But there are viable options for those who wish not to learn face-to-face. 

“The district actually created a whole new school this year for families and students who did not feel comfortable learning in-person,” Insoon Olson said. 

Northridge graduate and current University of Northern Colorado student Cole Eckhardt is passionate about protecting both students and staff members and believes that in order for schools to begin to function normally, masks should be implemented throughout the district, regardless of current numbers. 

“It’s a really good way to not only protect students but also the teachers that are putting their lives in the line of work,” Eckhardt said. 

According to the Weld County Health Department’s COVID-19 data, with the holiday season approaching and the arrival of the Omicron variant in Colorado, the numbers are likely to continue to increase.

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