California to slowly start reopening schools

With+multiple+COVID-19+vaccines+out%2C+California+is+looking+into+reopening+schools+across+the+state.+

Amogh Dhumal

With multiple COVID-19 vaccines out, California is looking into reopening schools across the state.

With vaccine distribution underway in California, school districts are now preparing to adjust to the new circumstances by reviewing the provided data and deciding when it is appropriate to return students and faculty to their campuses.

Although the COVID-19 vaccine has arrived, several obstacles are in its way, including the rate of distribution and decisions on who receives the vaccine first.

On Dec. 30, 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the initiative to reopen schools by mid-February by increasing funds to schools that comply with the program. The plan claims to provide adequate protection via testing, distributing surgical masks, and improved communication with health officials. The main goal is to bring back K-6 students and educators in districts with fewer than 28 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. This leaves 11 out of 58 Californian counties available to receive the government support, as the other 47 counties to continue distanced learning and plan for a later return. Those 11 counties do not currently include San Mateo County, but teachers and students alike are cautiously optimistic about returning back to school, with the vaccine more widely available. 

“I have thought a lot about taking the vaccine when available, and I would feel comfortable getting immunized against COVID-19,” said computer science teacher Karyn Voldstad. “I understand that this is a cost-benefit decision and that students [who may object to receiving the vaccine] should keep in mind that COVID-19 has long term effects.”

Other Carlmont students are cautious about the soon return, after learning online for the past calendar year. The bottlenecks around the widespread distribution of the vaccine and worrying reports about people choosing not to receive the vaccine are making some lean towards a longer online learning period.

“To ensure our safety as students, I think it’s best to not reopen unless every student has been vaccinated. Safety should be the number one priority for reopening,” said Zain Passi, a freshman.

Although Gov. Newsom’s reopening notes strict requirements, it leaves many districts in the dark on how to reopen. The University of Missouri Health Care claims that approximately 80%-90% of the population should receive the vaccine to reach herd immunity, a tactic to prevent the spread of infectious diseases via mass immunization. According to research done by Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), about 71% of the population is willing to receive the vaccine, which falls short of the required threshold as speculated by the University of Missouri. Also, a COVID-19 vaccine does not guarantee immunity; without herd immunity, the virus and its mutated strains can spread as they have for the past several months, ultimately preventing San Mateo County from leaving the purple tier and reopening this school year.

“I have read articles about the vaccine being mandatory for school,” said Alyssa Lu, a chemistry and human biology teacher. “Nothing has yet to be said for Carlmont yet though. People may not be allowed back into school without a vaccine. I know that teachers will be receiving the vaccine before students.” 

While requiring children to be vaccinated before entering a public school is necessary for ensuring a healthy learning atmosphere, requiring families to take the newly-designed vaccination is another issue. There are still several concerns regarding the vaccine’s protection against children and the longer-term side effects that come along with it. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Pfizer and BionTech vaccines have only been verified to work for patients ages 16 and older, and the Moderna vaccine has been shown to work for patients ages 18 and older. Because these vaccines have yet to be verified for age groups under 16, it is unlikely that schools will require students to take the COVID vaccine as of January 2021.

“Based on the vaccine distribution rate and the overall timeline, it is unlikely that we [Carlmont] will be reopening for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year,” Lu said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email