Opinion: Fully vaccinated students need to be able to have a normal fall


Mr. Paris teaching music. We can get back to this kind of school if the DOE requires students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 this fall.

Zach Kaplan, Editor-in-chief

For my entire junior year of high school, I’ve been stuck with the Plan A of learning in New York City: remote learning over Zoom, which comes with a lack of motivation to learn the way I did before COVID-19 made classes virtual. 

I always thought to myself that it could be worse. I’ve felt, and continued to feel sadness for the class of 2021, who saw their entire senior year unnecessarily go down the drain, and the silver lining for myself and the rest of the class of 2022 was that at least we’d have a normal senior year. 

For about a month now in New York, the Pfizer vaccine, with an 85% efficacy at preventing infection and a 100% efficacy at preventing hospitalization and death according to their clinical trials, has been available to 16-18 year olds. With this vaccine, it makes no sense that we’re still stuck with the hybrid learning system, a system that has presented itself as a sadly inadequate alternative to the full-remote learning experience that myself and too many others have had to endure. 

Over 1 million people between the ages of 16 and 25 have received one dose of the vaccine in New York and roughly 789,000 people in that age group, myself included, have completed their series, according to the NY State website.  

In addition, the new CDC guidance says fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks indoors with other fully vaccinated people. 

Most public schools’ policy towards “in-person” schooling seems to apply to the majority of high school students who haven’t gotten two doses of the vaccine, especially due to the fact that the vaccine was only made available to the 12-15 age group last week. That caution makes sense, but the DOE should have a gameplan for the fall that scraps the hybrid learning model entirely. 

In the fall, most high school aged-students will have gotten the vaccine, and those who still haven’t gotten the vaccine likely won’t be a liability due to the efficacy of the vaccine.

My proposal is not at all complicated, and all it requires is proof of vaccination and basic technology. Those of us who are vaccinated need to be able to live our normal lives and that includes normal school. 

Despite the limitations of school right now, my class of 2022 can still salvage something out of our senior year. 

What needs to happen in the fall is schools need to have their fully vaccinated students be in classes with each other and be taught by a fully vaccinated teacher. Those students who are unvaccinated and feel comfortable coming in should wear a mask, and the students who are uncomfortable coming in can still be in the class, just virtually on a computer that’s broadcasting the entire classroom.

This is something we should’ve been doing even before the vaccine was rolled out (just with universal masking as protection instead of the vaccine), and the benefits are numerous. 

The first, and major benefit, is that high school students can take comfort under this style of learning that everyone in a given classroom is vaccinated against COVID-19 and most likely, tests will not need to be conducted. When it comes down to it, a lot of us are going to take a long time to readjust to our normal lives and to live anxiety-free as we did pre-March 2020. Since this virus likely won’t go away, the only way to make sure school can be normal in the fall is to make sure everyone is armed with the best protection against the virus. 

Secondly, the mental health of older students will be taken into account, and people will have reason for joy and motivation to learn once again. I certainly know that I used to greatly look forward to seeing my friends in school, and I definitely learned better with the physical guidance of a teacher compared to over a computer. 

The third benefit of this strategy to in-person school is that it will benefit both the students and the neighborhood around. Most of the small, even large businesses surrounding a school have been struggling during the pandemic. This influx of students coming back into the neighborhood would reel in more profit for these small businesses that desperately need it. 

Now that we have the vaccine, we should not be continuing the system of learning that we had before the vaccine came about. The vaccine is safe and effective and there are hundreds of thousands of us itching to resume our normal lives, school being a massive part of that. Let’s stop waiting and being cautious, and let’s heed the CDC’s advice and get fully vaccinated students back into actual school this fall.