May, 2021. This is an important month for a few reasons. This is the month in which many districts across the country begin wrapping up for the year, with most ending the school year by the end of the month. Additionally, the Pfizer vaccine was officially approved to be administered to people 12 and older, reducing the limit from the previous 16 and older guidelines. And, on May 13, President Biden announced that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks. The timing of these three events could not be better. This is what I believe many took as a sign of the end of the pandemic and a call to return to normalcy, especially in America’s schools. With vaccines now available for almost all secondary education students, relaxed mask restrictions, and better vaccine availability for younger children, it seemed possible that students could have an almost normal school year.
November, 2021, or present day. Things haven’t worked as well as people would have wanted to. All districts’ plans for the school year unraveled almost immediately. Not nearly enough students were vaccinated; thus, many got covid, consequently leading to many students having to be contact traced and sent home. School staff also ran into the same problem, and this came to a head for Rutherford County Schools on September 1st when the district announced that all schools would be closed on September 3rd. This was to try and give their staff a chance to recover and/or finish periods of quarantine, as they were extremely short staffed. And on September 9th, a mask mandate was announced for all Rutherford County Schools. One month—that is how fast it all got bad again. Now think of that type of scenario, for almost every other district in the country. It’s chaos. With winter months coming that are already notorious for the common sicknesses associated with them, it seems that trying to salvage the thoughts of having a normal school year have gone out of the window.
But the problem is that there is still a school year to complete. And, there are school years after that to worry about, as it seems that Covid will be a fixture in our lives for years to come. A plan needs to be in place for schools, one that counteracts the effects of Covid while also being effective enough for students to get the best possible learning experience. So, how should schools deal with Covid?
The two main things schools need to worry about are the safety of their students and the personal/moral beliefs of them and their parents. The safety of the students obviously relates to preventing the spread of Covid, and the personal/moral relates to their opinions on preventative measures like vaccines and masks.
First of all, schools need to figure out an efficient way to try and slow the spread of covid and continuously keep it down. The question now is, how do you do that? Getting the vaccine helps, as Pfizer reported that its vaccine was over 90 percent effective in children aged from 5 – 11, combined with its already proven ways of reducing the odds of getting covid, and its ability to lessen the effect of Covid if you contracted it with the vaccine. Wearing a mask also helps, although it appears that many in Rutherford County Schools are not wearing their masks despite there technically still being a mandate in place for them. So, that just does not seem as reliable of a way of preventing Covid as it was at the beginning of the pandemic. Thus, getting vaccinated is probably the best thing, along with increased measures to try and sanitize objects and people regularly.
Secondly, schools have to figure out how they can best balance the moral values of the students and parents. An example of this is the infamous September 7 school board meeting, in which both sides, mask and no mask, students and parents, had an incident happen. This event really showed the importance of personal opinions, and how it is now more important than at the beginning of the pandemic due to restless and differing public opinions. As the pandemic continues on, there’s going to be more questioning of people’s beliefs and opinions, which could cause problems regarding how to enforce certain protective measures, such as vaccines. This is a complicated topic, as there is really no way of doing something that pleases both sides. So, here is the answer. Do not do anything. Do not do anything drastic until or unless something can be said that most people would like.
Overall, schools will never be the same after Covid, and the road to a semi- normal environment is still a very long, unknown one. There are still unexpected twists and turns to face, making any prediction a hard one to predict. Time will tell, though, and, as we get further along in the school year, plans will start taking shape and be put in place. Hopefully, in a year’s time, we can just go back to regular schooling.