One particular question has raised many controversial discussions between school administrators, teachers, health officials, and members of the general public about reopening schools: Is it vital that all school staff get vaccinated for COVID-19 for a safe reopening?
The Centers for Disease Control recently weighed in on the issue.
“There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated to reopen safely,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told ABC News at a briefing. “Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for the safe reopening of schools.”
These comments weren’t very comforting for some people working at schools because many of them feel they can be at risk of being exposed to COVID by other staff members and students.
“This comment doesn’t necessarily make me feel valued and make me feel as though my life and my job are important,” English teacher Devan Manning said. “I want to help my students and be the best I can be for them, and that for me meant that I had to be vaccinated.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom led state legislators to an agreement on his proposed $6.6 billion plan for reopening schools, which included distributing safety equipment for schools. But several Cal High staff members believe it is compulsory to get all teacher’s vaccinated, for these safety measures to even be beneficial.
“I personally think that it is important for the staff to get vaccinated to have a safe reopening,” counselor Rachelle Goldenberg said. “I feel it is really important for students to be taught [at school] and not be over-exposed to the virus and that the teachers themselves could be at a higher risk if they weren’t vaccinated.”
Although California did provide some guidance regarding the reopening, the state ultimately gave each school district the authority to make decisions for the betterment of their schools. In the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, the hybrid model was put in place in the spring before quickly shifting to full-time learning four days a week.
Students attended online classes for about three-fourths of the school year before the hybrid model was decided for people who desired to go back to school. These students went back on campus on March 17. The Board of Education decided shortly thereafter to send hybrid students back to campus full time Tuesday through Friday beginning March 29.
About 500 Cal students, or 21.97 percent of the student body, signed up for the hybrid model and have been back on campus full time for almost a month now.
“Cal High and the district itself have been helpful in making sure that teachers have the opportunity to get the vaccine if they want to, which is appreciated,” Manning said. “However, it is worth noting that the hybrid model did get put into place before everybody was vaccinated so there were some teachers who probably did return to campus unvaccinated.”
With some teachers returning to school unvaccinated for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, the district’s Board of Education announced that all teachers and students will return to full-time, in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year. Students are being given the option of enrolling in the district’s Virtual Academy if they’re not comfortable returning to campus.
“I do believe that for us to go back with 100 percent of students in the building full time that as many faculty members as possible should be vaccinated first,” Spanish teacher Anna McKnight-Matney said.
Many students agree.
“Teachers should have the option to get vaccinated before attending in-person school,” freshman Anisha Bhat said.
Other students don’t believe teachers getting vaccinated before returning to campus affects them very much.
“I don’t feel any safer knowing that the teachers got vaccinated simply because I was never worried in the first place,” sophomore Paul Symank said. “No one in my family is at high risk.”
Numerous teachers who have received their vaccination believe they are very blessed to have one, especially because they know they are protecting the people around them.
“I’m fortunate enough to have gotten both vaccine shots,” English teacher Nick Shea said. “While I’m still taking the same precautions, it does make me feel better about being back on campus and in person.”
Numa Patel is a California High School freshman.