How the COVID Vaccine Might Affect Our Schools

Thomas Daniels, Sports Editor

The months march on, and COVID-19 is moving unpredictably. The uncertain future continues to be a contested debate, which does not exclude how executives handle education during these times. Besty DeVos, the Secretary of Education, criticized Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in early July for closing schools and going virtual in the spring. In early June, FCPS Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam decided to go along with online learning heading into the fall. School officials also put a plan into place to bring students back to in-person school, which would be in four operational levels.

FCPS already passed the first level, which is a fully online learning experience. Phase two, which is cohort learning, started phasing in early October, and FCPS will be completely in phase two by the end of November. In this phase, students with disabilities, learning English or are in Pre-K through second grade can go to school, for one or more days, with CDC guidelines in place. Pre-K, Kindergarten, and Special-Ed will be totally operational on November 16, and grades 1 and 2 will come back on November 30. As the virus dwindles, and Dr. Brabrand deems it safe, students will enter phase three.

At this level, everyone will be attending FCPS schools, but in two alternating groups, one group in-person for two days and one group online for two days. For grades 3-6, this starts on January 3, and for grades 7-12, this starts on January 26.* According to an October 23 update, FCPS hopes to “provide all students with in-person learning no later than the beginning of the second semester in February.”

Minae Kim, a senior at Woodson, thinks that it “would be one of the smarter choices if we do go back so not everyone is in the school at once and limit interactions.”

Although, Lydia Falardeau, also a senior, has concerns saying, via email, “it will be kind of confusing to balance the online and the in school work for the teachers and the students alike.”

There will only be one person per seat on bus rides to Woodson, and there will be seating limits for classrooms. To make sure that everyone is safe in class, students will have to wear masks in school, have daily health screening questions, and wash hands frequently. As the year progresses, FCPS can move between levels, based on Fairfax county metrics. Asynchronous Mondays will still happen during this period as well.

The final stage will be 100 percent in-person classes with CDC guidelines in place. Choices to stay online during the year will be active during phases two through four, and FCPS will reconfirm choices made by parents and students.

Cartoon by Ariana Tackett

Teachers can submit a preference to teach online, but Woodson will ask teachers to come back to school if needed. Health reasons will be reviewed by officials who will try to match teachers with students who prefer virtual.

Regarding vaccines, when they come to the public, students have to get the vaccine if there is an outbreak in the school, and if the State Health Commissioner exercises his authority to require it. Minae Kim thinks that vaccines “should be [mandatory] just to take extra precaution because the virus is so spreadable.”

Falardeau agrees, saying, “I think students will have to get a vaccine before coming back to school.”

Otherwise, parents may refuse to have their students vaccinated if it’s against their religion, or they may have a medical condition that prevents them from getting the vaccine.

In other states, Georgia, for example, re-opened their schools in August and saw a spike in COVID-19 cases. Around 1,200 students and teachers in the Cherokee County School District had to stay in quarantine for the lack of preparedness. Pictures of packed hallways at North Paulding High School were sent online and created such a storm that the principal of the school suspended the student who took the photo. The principal later lifted the suspension, and the school has been closed.

 

*On November 12, the Superintendent will come out with a plan to potentially have grades 3-12 go back to school earlier than the current schedule.