On January 13th, Hillsboro School District released a tentative plan for returning to school this year.
In this plan, a lot of attention was focused around the students and the order of which they will be brought back. While it is very important to consider the students at school, it seems as if teachers have been overlooked here.
According to the plan, teachers will be expected to return to school with no hesitation as students start to come back. With the precautions and careful planning for returning students, why is there no similar plan for returning teachers?
Oregon Governor, Kate Brown has announced that Oregon will be administering COVID vaccines to K-12 educators and staff, beginning January 23rd. This vaccine is a good start to keeping the teachers safe, but this doesn’t exactly put ease at mind.
Firstly, the fact that students will not be vaccinated creates problems for the safety of anyone at school. A teacher at Century mentioned that there are no plans to vaccinate the children, in which they can still be carriers and get other people sick. This is all very true.
The teachers who are vaccinated might not be able to get sick from the students who carry the virus with them, but the vaccine also does not stop one from becoming an asymptomatic carrier.
Imagine this scenario: Student goes to school as an asymptomatic carrier, and goes to their first period class where the teacher is vaccinated. Teacher helps the student with something, and was in contact too long and is now another asymptomatic carrier. Teacher goes home and spends time with their family, who is not vaccinated and gets their young child sick. Now another person has COVID.
This is how it spreads so quickly. Especially if people don’t know they have it, so they don’t know they are spreading it.
Secondly, getting full rounds of vaccines could take a while before all educators and staff at even one school are immune.
Since getting the vaccine isn’t required by law, will teachers be held accountable for their vaccinations? After seeing the considerations that were taken for them in this new plan? I think not.
Getting only one round of the vaccine can be dangerous and only ends up being 50% effective. And getting the two shots can take a while, because they have to be three weeks apart. Even then, with it’s 95% effectiveness, there is a 5% room for error.
The concerns of how many people can even get the vaccine is shared with Century teachers as well. One stated “Right now, it seems that many areas are having trouble getting one shot to people and there is not enough vaccine for everyone. Plus, a significant percentage of people refuse to get it.” in his reasons for concern the vaccine just won’t cut it.
One teacher mentioned that they would feel safer if the students were to get the vaccine too. This brings up a good point. Why wouldn’t we just make everyone get the vaccine before reopening? If all students, teachers, and staff had to get the vaccine before going back to school, there would be a far better guarantee that everyone could stay safe.
Older teachers who could be at a larger risk shouldn’t have to worry about being hospitalized or worse upon schools reopening. Teachers of any age shouldn’t have to worry about contracting a disease through their students that could be potentially dangerous to them or their family.
As of January 14th, Governor Brown was alerted of and announced some “disturbing news” as she put it. Oregon and other states will not be receiving the shipments of vaccines they thought were coming, meaning the plan for vaccinating seniors and other target groups such as teachers starting January 23rd is unable to go through. All of the uncertainty this time brings especially regarding vaccinations raises more apprehension for the reopening of schools.
Aside from the vaccine, teachers are concerned about the safety of their classrooms too. Two teachers have recognized that their classrooms may not meet regulations for some of their class sizes, even with proper ventilation. One requested for HEPA filters in the classroom and said “If these measures were in place I would go back this afternoon.”
The benefits of going back to school have both been questioned and excited with the teachers. The responses for what would get better for them back at school were fairly mixed.
Some teachers said that they would benefit from engagement with students and teaching/learning would improve. Others said there are no benefits or not enough to outweigh their concerns. All of these plans seem to be rather inconsiderate of the educator’s point of view, and not taking many of their opinions into account. One teacher pointed out what the rest of them were surely thinking, “It is a scary time to feel like others are in control of one’s health and fate.”
It is quite scary. The precautions being taken to reopen schools this year are seemingly pointless with the larger risks that come into play that aren’t being addressed. Vaccination of the teachers won’t do anything if there aren’t strict enough rules for students.
Hopefully the district will take careful consideration of all the parties involved when making a big decision like this. Prematurely opening schools without the materials and proper precautions can be detrimental to the community.