With almost a year having gone by since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. hard, the question as to whether or not schools will open in the Fall of 2021 has become more prevalent. Governor Gavin Newsom announced in December that there were plans to start opening schools up in February. This is some very poor timing, as California is still in the midst of record-high numbers for COVID cases, and even air quality restrictions in L.A. were lifted in order to keep up with the amount of body cremations that were occurring. California, along with the rest of the U.S., do not show signs of recovering from the pandemic anytime soon.
The idea of opening up schools during this time is laughable. Online teaching is not perfect by any means, and students and teachers alike certainly don’t have any desire to continue online teaching than it already has, but it’s not a matter of what we want. The question that we all should be asking ourselves is: is it for the best? I personally find it ironic that Newsom is concerned with disenfranchised students that are affected by online learning that come from lower-income families, when they are the ones that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Now, with the COVID-19 vaccine being offered at a limited rate in the U.S., it seems most of our officials are hoping that there’s going to be a larger number of people vaccinated by the time the next school year rolls around. However, that doesn’t do anything for schools that are currently attempting to open their doors. If President Biden’s plan to have a million Americans vaccinated by the summer time goes well, that would be fantastic! However, the CDC released a statement saying that institutions don’t need to wait for their staff to be vaccinated in order to open up, though they seemed to have backtracked by saying schools should still have hybrid options, this seems to be a very weak fix-it statement.
Vaccinations have already prioritized healthcare workers and the elderly. With teachers having such an important role by educating children, why should their health not be prioritized? No one wants to be in another year of online learning, least of all the teachers, but why should teachers be thrown to the sharks by being exposed to hundreds of students? It doesn’t seem to be enough to require students to sit behind plexiglass at their desks, or continue to overwork janitors in order to keep the school sanitized. When bathrooms were treated abysmally before COVID-19, what will make it better now? Surely the stereotype of unclean public bathrooms won’t vanish in a single semester.
With Whittier College’s announcement that it plans to open up in the Fall of 2021, I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen if that falls through. It seems as though the faculty is running on the assumption that a majority of students will have received the vaccine by the time the next school year comes around. The best case scenario for all schools would have to be making the COVID-19 vaccine a mandatory vaccine, such as the MMR vaccine. How else are we going to be able to ensure the safety of our fellow students? Students — especially incoming freshmen, as well as the Class of 2024, that has never even stepped foot on campus — deserve to be able to have a college experience that isn’t marred by the pandemic, or under the threat of another stay-at-home order. Since the start of last March, the U.S. has proven that they don’t have a handle on the health crisis as a whole. I want to remain positive, but, with the events of the last year, I just don’t know if that will be the smart decision.
Featured Image: Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus