Photo courtesy of Evelyn Bond
Mask-wearing is optional in Dance, Fitness and Well-being classes, allowing for students to breathe properly while exercising and engaging with their peers.
Dylan Linton (’23), who takes Lifetime Fitness, said he agrees that mask-wearing should be optional, although he recognizes its importance in other classes.
“While it is important to wear a mask in all of our classes, in workout classes specifically, if students have the opportunity to social distance properly, then masks shouldn’t be mandatory,” he said.
Linton also said being able to engage with peers and see people’s faces in mask-optional classes is “liberating.”
Similarly, dance student Evelyn Bond (’22) said no one in her class wears a mask while dancing, which makes the class more enjoyable.
“It also allows us to express ourselves and dance to the full extent,” she said. “It keeps us from gasping for breath under our mask.”
Bond said another benefit of not wearing a mask for dance students is that it is easier to “understand our teacher with loud music.”
Indeed, PE Teacher Grant Hiller said masks can make it harder to hear and see people.
“I don’t feel like you’re as clear, and also that people can’t see your facial expressions,” he said.
PE Teacher Patrick Severijns said he often recommends that his students leave their masks on, depending on the strain of the activity.
Like Severijns, Hiller said he encourages students to wear masks in the limited space “if they’re not doing something that’s getting their breathing rate up.”
Hiller said one effect of letting students determine their own mask-wearing is that social distancing becomes more crucial and must be monitored.
“It’s also just challenging with numbers when there’s one of you,” he said. “We do the best that we can.”
In addition, the amount of space that students can exercise in also impacts the risk of removing masks. Hiller said his Lifetime Fitness class is particularly challenging as it takes place in the fitness room, the weight room or MPR3, which are all relatively small spaces. Hiller, therefore, said he often has to remind people to spread out.
Severijns said classes often have to share spaces, impacting students’ learning as well as the flexibility in removing masks.
“We have more classes than we have spaces here,” he said. “That meant classes had to share a space, which is not creating the ideal learning environment.”
Bond said performance opportunities in the School Center are potentially riskier than other activities.
During the rehearsal process for a recorded video performance in December, Bond said it was “a bit difficult to social distance properly.”
Bond said they are restricted from partner work and must wipe down all materials used, such as yoga mats.
“We usually go in, and sometimes we’ll wash our hands with hand sanitizer depending on the activity,” she said.
In PE, Well-Being and fitness, Hiller said he encourages students to wash their hands before and after class rather than use hand sanitizer.
“Of course we’re not going to stand there and … force them to do that,” he said. “Hand washing is better, but we rely on students and trust that they are doing that between classes.”
Despite extra precautions, Linton said there are limitations to the activities that can be done in movement classes. He said his fitness class has adapted since the beginning of the year to involve less face-to-face contact.
“We’re doing a unit where we’re really just focusing on individual workout plans,” he said. “We’ve kind of transferred our focus now, but stuff we did early in the semester involved partners and workout buddies.”
Severijns said the PE department discussed how to ensure that students would learn the same concepts and techniques while maintaining social distance.
“If we can’t do this activity, but we want to achieve these learning outcomes, what other activity can we choose that actually helps us reach these learning outcomes,” he said.