Teachers react to reopening as vaccinations increase

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Image: Courtesy of Gaby Doyle. Teacher Gaby Doyle received her vaccine from a BHHS alumni right as they opened for educators at the Walgreens on Pico and Robertson.

Candice Anvari staff writer 

Emma Newman staff writer 

Beginning March 1, teachers became eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine through pharmacies, vaccine sites or the district’s allocated vaccines. More than three-quarters of BHHS teachers want to wait until they are vaccinated before returning to school, despite the fact that the district currently does not plan to wait until teachers are vaccinated before in-person classes resume, according to data collected in February by the teachers’ union.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy thinks the recent increase in vaccines for educators, which will most likely result in every BHUSD teacher having the opportunity to be vaccinated, is something the administration is “very pleased about.” However, he understands that some teachers will not take it for personal reasons. 

“We told our employees that it is not a requirement to get vaccinated, but it is highly encouraged if you are in a profession in which you are sharing a space with multiple people,” Bregy said. “There are some people that philosophically don’t want to get vaccinated, and that is okay.”

Science teacher Lisa Dickens, who received both doses of the vaccine, was willing to go back unvaccinated. However, she felt “such a relief” when she was able to get the vaccine. 

“I was willing to come back to school without being vaccinated, but not happy about the increased potential for getting sick,” Dickens said. “I don’t want to get sick and I don’t want my students to get sick, either.  Most people survive it, but not all, no matter the age.” 

History teacher Joanie Garratt was even warier about going back to school without the vaccine. 

“I didn’t want to return to school under any circumstances without being vaccinated,” Garratt said. “I’m young at heart, but not in age, and did not want to risk my health during a pandemic.” 

Since being vaccinated, Garratt’s opinion about reopening has now become more positive, although she still has some concerns about the system. 

“My perspective has changed because I don’t feel my life is at risk,” Garratt said.  “However, I can’t say that I’m a fan of how the school will be organized upon return if based on the cohort system. I would rather finish the semester with distance learning now after I’ve heard a long list of things we can’t do upon return.” 

History teacher Pete Van Rossum also feels that even if teachers are vaccinated, which he feels is the only option that “make[s] sense,” he is not entirely sure that he wants to go back to school. 

“I would be in favor of whatever solution is the most user-friendly,” Van Rossum said.
“Going back just to go back won’t make sense if we aren’t able to teach as effectively.” 

Dickens and Garratt are both additionally concerned about the lack of safety of students. Garratt said that she will not “feel 100% safe” until students are given the vaccine. However, as of yet, people under 16 may not get the vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine is only cleared for ages 16 and older. 

Dickens still hopes that the school can go back to being in-person, even if it means that it will look different than it did before the pandemic. 

“I miss seeing my students,” Dickens said. “Even though returning to school won’t look like ‘normal’—we will still have to social distance and wear masks, we won’t have everyone back at the same time—I still look forward to being able to meet this year’s students in person.” 

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