[Opinion] The implications of dismissed safety measures for the 2021-2022 school year

Graphic+by+Julia+Landy

Graphic by Julia Landy

Sofia Osio

Throughout the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year, numerous students, parents and staff have questioned the efficiency of the implemented safety precautions on campus, as well as which ones will be enforced next school year. As COVID-19 statistics continue on a downward spiral with an increased amount of vaccinations being distributed worldwide, the question remains on which of these implemented safety precautions will remain intact next year and which will be deemed unnecessary.

Since mid-October of 2020, students and staff were given the option to report back on campus for phase two of remote learning. Additional safety measures were also introduced, such as directional arrows in the hallways to indicate where to walk, socially distant lunch tables and benches, mask requirements for all and plastic shields in the main offices.

While some may deem these measures unnecessary for the 2021-2022 school year due to widespread vaccinations and decreasing cases, these rules should continue to be enforced in schools. The current rules should remain in place until every student and staff member on campus is vaccinated or negative for COVID-19 before returning to the campus. 

In mid-January, prior to the forced return of teachers and staff back on campus, several Broward County Public Schools staffers took medical leaves or requested to continue at home learning due to preexisting medical concerns. With these medical concerns still in place, it would be nothing less than unethical and detrimental to send students and staff back to school next year without being vaccinated.

Although some critics may argue that the recently released COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna are too new and the implications are unknown, this would not be out of the ordinary for a school district to require. These immunizations should be required before students are allowed to step foot on campus.

According to the Florida Department of Health – School Immunization Requirements, effective since the 2009-2010 school year, every student going into, attending or transferring into the seventh grade must receive a Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. 

This is only one of the several required immunizations for Florida’s public school systems, and it will surely not be the last. It is only logical that in the face of a worldwide pandemic, the Broward County Public Schools system makes COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for the 2021-2022 school year. 

Furthermore, safety protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing should remain unchanged as of the 2021-2022 school year. Even in the case where everyone attending campus was vaccinated, the state of Florida and the United States as a whole will not fully recover from this pandemic until either “natural immunity” or “herd immunity” are established. 

Natural immunity is known as a population’s immunity to a disease after several people have contracted it, an obviously more time consuming and lethal way to go about running a country, let alone schools. According to an article from Narayana Health, in order for “herd immunity” to take place, upwards of 70% and 90% of the population would need to be vaccinated to truly recover from this severely contagious and infectious disease. 

Evidently, going the route of natural immunity would be far more detrimental to our schools, state and nation overall. By far, the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools is to establish herd immunity through extended safety protocols and continued precautions for those around us who may still be non-symptomatic carriers, regardless of negative tests. 

Until herd immunity is certain, the precautions of wearing masks and social distancing would keep individuals safe, despite their location. Clearly, there is much room allocated for improvement of the efficiency and exercise of safety measures taken by Broward County Public Schools for the following school year.