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Looking Ahead: Should Schools Open in 2022?

It’s been more than a year since we’ve been to school, and I’m sure most of us miss engaging with friends, going out, eating lunch with them, or simply just sharing a laugh. But what if I told you that there is a possibility of getting all of those back in the near future? Who knows? 2022 is coming pretty soon.

A couple of weeks ago, we got the chance to have an engaging conversation with Teacher Josh Agoncillo (a teacher in the History Department), Teacher Laura Comsti (the coordinator of the Filipino Department), Teacher Jai (the coordinator of History, Department and a teacher of A.P, and CL subjects), Theone Siscar (a student from Grade 9 Berea), and finally Chesca Sawit (a student in Grade 11 STEM). Let’s see what they have to say!

Vaccines and Being Vaccinated

Teacher Josh recounted the details of when he was vaccinated last July. At first, he was very hesitant, but one of his college classmates messaged him and said that there was a walk-in vaccination site in Mandaluyong. Although this was the case, he had second thoughts because the vaccine available was Sinovac. Politics and the vaccine trials added to his hesitations, but he eventually decided to get vaccinated because thousands of people did as well. For Teacher Josh, as long as the vaccines went through the trials and were approved by our government officials, then he's fine with it.

Similar to what Teacher Josh said, Teacher Laura stated that even though she is now fully vaccinated, she was hesitant at first, and she regrets getting vaccinated right away. She is not against vaccinations, but instead, she just wanted to wait for the proper vaccines for the rest of the community. However, when she saw the vaccination rates increasing and the government encouraging the citizens to get vaccinated, she decided to abide. The reason why she regrets getting vaccinated right away is that she got Sinovac, so she has limited access to certain places and countries because they don't allow Sinovac.

“Just like the other teachers,’’ Teacher Jai started when she explained that she is fully vaccinated. The vaccine given to her was Sputnik, and she was only supposed to wait for two weeks until her second dose. Unfortunately, it got delayed. However, she found out that it would take 6 months before the first dose would lose its effect. Apart from this experience, she also had to consider her family before getting vaccinated because she lives with a baby and two senior citizens.

Chesca explained how she hasn’t been vaccinated yet, but since children aged 12-17 are on the line-up to get vaccinated, she is just waiting for the schedule of when she can get a dose. She talked about how she isn’t exactly the biggest fan of needles, but she thinks that vaccines are a great and effective form of defense and protection. Currently, she’s still hesitant about which vaccine she might get, but overall, she believes that vaccines are a good thing to have.

Theone also hasn't been vaccinated. At first, she didn’t have an opinion because she knew she couldn't get the vaccine yet. However, she hopes that the Filipino people will choose to get vaccinated for the situation to get better. The people around her being hesitant also caused her to doubt the vaccines. However, she believes that vaccines do work in general. Although it will not completely ensure that you won't get the virus, it serves as protection which is extremely important right now.

Vaccines for kids aged 12-17 in the Philippines

Teacher Josh simply answered that he is okay with the vaccines for kids aged 12-17 in the Philippines as long as it shows favorable results.

Teacher Laura on the other hand said that when it comes to vaccination for kids, she is currently against it because children might have worse side effects compared to adults. As a parent, she is scared of the possible side effects that it will have on her children, so she won't be taking any risks. Instead of allowing her children to get vaccinated, she will choose to wait.

As a mother, Teacher Jai concurred with what Teacher Laura said. If one compares how the body of a grown-up would react to the vaccine to how a child may react, it's not the same. Due to this nature, it's exceptionally difficult to tell what must be done, and so she's more reluctant with the vaccines for kids than the ones for grown-ups. She affirms it as long as it is well examined, well investigated, and well-executed.

Chesca said she is also experiencing reluctance on the sort of immunization that she'll be getting. However, other than social distancing and the security conventions, she explained that she doesn't really have a secure line of defense. This led her to believe that vaccines are truly the bleeding edge for protection, so at the end of the day, it'd be great if she gets vaccinated.

Theone also agreed that she would eventually like to be immunized, and she accepts that the approval of immunizations for children aged 12-17 is one step closer to moving forward with the current circumstance. Just like the other teachers though, she would rather wait and see how it goes for other nations first. Apart from this, she accepts that the government ought to prioritize the frontliners, those with comorbidities, and the less fortunate since they are the ones in desperate need of the vaccines.​​

Should vaccines be mandatory for face-to-face classes?

Teacher Josh said that vaccines are needed and highly encouraged, but since the vaccines for kids aged 12-17 have just recently been approved, he considers that they shouldn’t be obligatory or required. In any case, he believes that it would be incredible if the teachers would get vaccinated since it would benefit them and those around them. He finds it terrifying to think of going back to school and being encompassed with individuals who are not all inoculated. However, he knows that immunizations can't be mandatory.

Teacher Laura stated that she believes it’s unnecessary because everyone has a different calculated risk tolerance. Some parents are willing to take risks, while others are not. For her, if parents don't want their children to go to school with those who are unvaccinated, they can create a system wherein those vaccinated will be separated from the unvaccinated. She acknowledges that this may not be feasible, but it is just an option to consider. Teacher Laura hopes that they won't make it mandatory because it goes against our human rights.

Teacher Jai said she also thinks that it shouldn't be mandatory. She notes that if face-to-face classes do happen again, it will not be the same as the pre-pandemic days. She explains that vaccines don't have to be required, but instead, the protocols should be the only one that's mandatory. Teacher Jai explained that students shouldn't be forced to be vaccinated just because it's a requirement for face-to-face classes.

“Since ‘face-to-face’ classes implies that we're talking about the whole school body and not just junior and senior high, we still need to take into account kids under 12 who are most likely grade school or even nursery school students who are one of the most vulnerable in that environment,” Chesca considered when asked the question.

Theone believes that vaccines shouldn’t be mandatory too since it's kind of like forcing people to put substances inside their bodies, and she thinks that people should have the choice to refuse. She agrees with Teacher Jai that protocols should be mandatory instead of vaccinations being mandatory.

Should schools reopen in 2022 if both students and teachers are fully vaccinated?

Teacher Josh said that it depends on the situation because when there's a new variant, there is a possibility that the virus will mutate even more. He mentioned that if Pasig City or Metro Manila is already at “low risk’’ then it would be more feasible. There are so many more factors to consider apart from being vaccinated if schools were to reopen. He thinks that it ultimately depends on how the government will handle the situation and if the healthcare system will start to cope up.

Teacher Laura agreed with what Teacher Josh said. Even if everyone gets vaccinated, schools shouldn’t immediately reopen. It is still important to consider the many repercussions that this may bring. Teacher Laura explained the process of reopening schools should happen gradually, and it should be well planned out.

Teacher Jai's answer is similar to what the other teachers said. She mentioned the term "contextualized" which means that the situation won't be the same for all countries. Each of them has their own strategies and approaches based on the gravity of the situation in their country. The reopening of schools should have phases wherein the schools who are more "ready" and the low-risk areas should try it out first. Although the schools are the ones to make the decision, they are ultimately just following the regulating body above them. Once the government proposes the reopening of schools and the president allows it, then there is no choice but to follow.

Chesca mentioned that she doesn't necessarily think that schools should immediately reopen once the teachers and students are fully vaccinated as she thinks before that, the school itself should fully prepare itself for the influx of both students and teachers.

Theone agreed with all the other teachers, as she thinks that schools should only reopen depending on the situation of the area. Since children are usually the ones who are asymptomatic, reopening schools with the current situation may allow the cases to increase even more. Social distancing may also be a struggle, especially for small schools like ICS because the school doesn't have open spaces, and the classrooms are small. Although she has faith in the students, Theone mentioned how it is hard to guarantee that they will follow the strict safety protocols with the excitement of seeing each other for the first time after a whole year.

What now?

Vaccines are good! However, they’re not perfect. It is such a rich experience to hear and understand the opinions of our teachers and fellow students because it allows us to see our situation in a different light.

How about you? What are your thoughts on the vaccines and the possibility of schools reopening? In our situation right now, let us simply wait for what the future holds for all of us.

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