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We Convinced Our School to Bring Back Masks
Here's how we did it.
My 4-year-old started preschool last year. A few weeks later, they dropped their mask policy. It made me nervous, but my spouse said it would probably be okay. “They spend most of their time outside.”
A week later, we all got Covid.
It hit me the hardest. I wound up spending at least three full days in bed. Toward the end, I was getting cold sweats. Later that fall, the kids got struck by viruses. Our daughter kept wearing a mask, but it wasn’t enough. She came home with the sniffles a couple of times. By then I was snorting Enovid every day, which is a controversial move since it’s not FDA-approved.
For a little while, I felt paranoid.
Nobody wanted to listen to me talk about Covid, not even my spouse. It was hard enough just to convince the school to accept air purifiers. Nobody wanted to hear about strep throat killing kids, or antibiotics shortages.
It felt lonely.
Finally, I decided I’d have to start gathering more evidence. So I made mega-lists of sources on everything from indoor air quality to “immunity debt.” I went out and found experts who were challenging the mainstream narrative, breaking down actual scientific studies and their implications.
Here’s my lists.
I started sharing these lists with people. I scheduled times with my spouse to talk about them in more depth.
He started to see.
I was persistent, even pushy. I said the uncomfortable things, that Covid was more like HIV than the flu, that Covid was never going away, that we shouldn’t have to keep tiptoeing around the normalcy fairytale. I referred to all the research showing that we would have to invest heavily in HEPA filtration, even upper room UVGI down the line if we wanted our daughter to stay in school.
As Kraken began spreading, I put my foot down and said if our school didn’t bring masks back, we would have to homeschool her. “Our daughter isn’t going to get Covid again,” I said. “She’s just not.” Finally, I told him neither one of us would ever be able to live with ourselves if she developed a chronic illness because we were too weak to stand up for her health.
He said, “Sometimes I worry if they think we’re overreacting.”
“What they think about us doesn’t matter.”
We sat quietly for a few minutes. I didn’t say anything else.
I let it sink in.
“Okay,” he said. “You’re right.” He said he knew it was serious, but he needed someone to lay the truth out in a way that was undeniable. He said he’d been clinging to hope, but that was going to hurt our daughter.
Next, we had to convince the school.
I was exhausted from getting him on board, so my spouse offered to do most of the talking. We made a list of points:
Covid is not over.
Covid is more like HIV than the flu.
Mild cases don’t spare you.
The less Covid, the better.
Immunity debt is an urban legend.
Masks don’t have to be permanent.
Other cultures mask.
Masks = caring.
Caring is a valuable lesson for kids.
We made some practical arguments, too. We reminded the school that they couldn’t afford to have teachers out sick all the time. Finally, we offered to donate all the masks and purifiers they’d need.
We were both anticipating that our arguments wouldn’t work, but we felt compelled. We approached it as deadpan as possible. We said we felt obligated to tell them everything that informed our own position, but obviously they’d have to make up their own mind. We were both prepared for the plan to fail, and we were ready to have to keep our kid home for several weeks, minimum.
Surprisingly, they opened up.
So far, everyone’s been on board. A lot of them really just didn’t have the information presented to them in stark terms. Nobody had explained the personal stakes. Nobody had dared question the gospel of normalcy. Nobody had articulated the difference between a surgical mask and a good-fitting respirator. Nobody had reminded them that bringing masks back for a few weeks didn’t mean bringing masks back forever. Nobody had explained to them that you build your child’s immune system by playing outside, not exposing them to germy air.
We made it as easy as possible for them to change their mind. See, I think most parents gave up on masks because they were a hassle. They didn’t know what kind of mask to buy. They didn’t like having to keep track of them. If they know their kid can just pick up a mask anytime they need one from their school, they’re much more amenable, most of the time.
Our governments should’ve made masks accessible to everyone. But because they won’t, we’ve stepped up. My family is doing the government’s job for them, because it’s the only way to protect our child.
We presented it like this:
Nobody wants their kid to be sick and miserable all the time. It’s not good for them. It’s not good for us. Wearing a mask for parts of the year keeps them healthy, and that means they spend more time at school. They learn more. They have a better time. They do better on tests. They make better grades.
Parents get a break.
They don’t have to spend all winter taking care of sick children.
As parents, it’s worth remembering that the persistent ones usually get what they want. Look at the anti-maskers. They didn’t give up. They kept pushing until they got their way. We don’t need to be that aggressive, but I think a lot of us get discouraged and give up. The anti-masker types never give up. They never seem to get tired. So if we want to beat them and win over middle earth, we have to match their energy. We have to be more vocal. We have to walk that fine line between informing, advocating, and badgering. We have to risk annoying people.
This approach won’t work for everyone.
Some schools are too far gone to listen. You can try, but in some cases you’re better off homeschooling your kids. In some cases, it really is too dangerous to advocate for masks and indoor air quality. In some places, it really will get you physically harassed or even attacked. It’s sad, but it’s true.
Just remember, it’s obviously not going to be easy. It took us both a lot of energy. It was difficult. It was uncomfortable. We didn’t hedge or qualify. We laid down the grim facts, and we didn’t care if they thought we were paranoid or crazy. We didn’t care if they thought we were fearmongers.
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