Dozens of LGHS faculty members received the first shot of vaccinations against COVID-19 in recent weeks as county rollout guidelines expanded to include workers in education and childcare.
Santa Clara County (SCC) expanded eligibility for the vaccine to teachers and K-12 school employees on Feb. 28. In a Mar. 12 press release, County Health Officer and Director of Public Health Dr. Sara Cody emphasized that “educators and parents can feel confident returning to in-person instruction now,” urging “all schools in the county to resume in-person instruction.”
Biology teacher Kim Burlinson, who was active in discussions with the District on returning to school, stated that “vaccinations have been a huge part of our negotiations.”
She admitted the LGHS faculty had hoped to be “further along in the vaccination process” prior to a return to in-person instruction. However, Burlinson affirmed trust in LGSUHSD, pointing out that “the fact that we have rolled out [reopening] slightly slower than the Elementary School District indicates that [LGSUHSD] is taking it pretty safely.”
“They’ve made concessions about teacher vaccinations…and have allowed teachers to come back, partnering with those teachers to create an all-around safety plan.”
Despite SCC’s green light for educators, LGHS teachers residing in Santa Cruz described “a lot of confusion” regarding county vaccination guidelines, according to sophomore English teacher Blaine Bowman.
He explained that “Santa Clara [expanded rollouts to] residents first; Santa Cruz did teachers. Even if you lived outside the county, but were a Santa Cruz teacher, they wanted to make sure you got vaccinated in order to get you back in the class as soon as possible.” Bowman noted that the greater number of Santa Cruz schools returning to in-person instruction as opposed to the smaller number of Santa Clara schools may account for this discrepancy in eligibility.
“It took [Santa Cruz] about three, four weeks longer than Santa Clara to open it up to teachers who are residents but teach outside of Santa Cruz,” he commented. Amidst preparations for a return to school, Bowman felt that “Santa Cruz teachers were the ones panicking the most because A: we felt furthest away, and B: neither county were addressing our concerns.”
Eventually, however, Santa Cruz-based teachers received the opportunity to get vaccinated.
Now, the vaccine means more than just returning to school with an added layer of protections. Biology teacher and Advanced Science Research (ASR) Advisor Cathy Messenger noted that “throughout my life, and as a science person, I’ve always believed in the concept of, ‘those that can get vaccinated…always should.’”
To Messenger, “it’s a societal value to establish a herd immunity and protect our vulnerable [people]….When I was getting treated for cancer, I had to protect myself as a vulnerable person during cold and heavy flu season. When you’re immunocompromised, you can’t protect yourself against those things.” Ultimately, she chose to get the vaccine “for several reasons, not the least of which being: it is the only path I can see forward to any sort of return to normal for all of us.”
“The risk associated with a vaccine that has not been testing on millions of people for years is real, but it’s small compared to the benefit of being able to be vaccinated and doing what I love.”
(Source: Santa Clara County Public Health)