Austin, TX

It's Past Time for Vaccine Mandates in Schools

Nicole Akers
Kids waiting in line for their temperature to be takenPexels

Austin, TX moves back to Stage 5. The NY Times breaking headline reports more than 300,000 Coronavirus cases confirmed in the US. In Chicago, schools have shut down because teachers refuse to return to in-person work in the classroom.

And, who can blame them?

Don’t people deserve to go to work and not put their health at risk because people are unvaccinated?

In Texas, it’s similar. Texas State University moves Spring classes for 2022 to virtual learning, at least temporarily.

The Austin Public Health Department moves the city back to Stage 5, the highest alert level, in response to the current threat:

“The omicron variant is overwhelming our community, and it’s starting to take its toll on our hospitals,” said Dr. Desmar Wakes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “We cannot continue to be lax when it comes to protecting ourselves and preventing the spread of COVID-19. That attitude has led us to return to Stage 5 and have one of the highest community transmission rates in the state. We all must do what we can to protect each other and our hospital systems, or else the situation will reach dire levels that no one wants to consider.”

Because students are returning to school after holiday gatherings and some have traveled, we haven’t reached the peak of the Omicron variant yet.

The best guess is that the number of cases will continue to rise for the next few weeks, especially among the unvaccinated.

In case you haven’t noticed, fully vaccinated isn’t fully vaccinated anymore. If you have young kids and were holding your breath, hoping you’d have a fully vaccinated family to possibly enjoy summer travel, you may have projected too far.

Fully vaccinated doesn’t just require two shots. Now fully vaccinated may need two shots and at least one booster, for a total of a 3-shot minimum, according to the NY Post. And that can change again in the future based on the results of those who are boosted.

And kids under the age of 5 still aren’t vaccine eligible, at least not in Austin, Texas. Check your local area availability for possible variations.

What does Stage 5 mean?

It means:

  • High-risk individuals, indoor and outdoor private gatherings are not recommended at all, with or without precautions, travel is discouraged unless essential, dining should be outdoors with precautions, and shopping should be outdoors or takeaway or curbside.
  • Low-risk individuals, indoor and outdoor private gatherings, travel, shopping, and dining should be with precautions. Note that places that require vaccines and masks may pose a lower risk.

What does this mean practically for schools?

We all hoped we were past this part of the pandemic. But, as kids return to school after the holidays, we’re facing virtual options again. Parents are going out of their minds considering that we may have to home-educate kids while attempting to balance life and work.

As my kids return to school, the Principal announces all the things kids are not allowed to do:

  • Not allowed to take off their masks indoors
  • Not allowed to get up and move around at school
  • Not allowed to use loud voices, and especially not allowed to yell

Kids are not allowed to be kids. Good God, we thought we were past this, but here we go again. Kids can only take masks off at recess and during Physical Education classes, which are only held outdoors.

Kids should be keeping their expectorant to themselves anyway, but they cannot yell or raise voices to communicate, as across a room.

Kids must stay in their assigned seats. And now they have assigned seats in the cafeteria too.

Before the holiday break, at least 3 classrooms in one child’s school had shut down due to the number of Covid positive students in them, in accordance with health recommendations and advice to the school. And we received multiples of close contact positive-tested student notices for our high school student.

We know that kids struggle to learn virtually. Their 2020–2021 standardized test scores show students underperform across the board. So much so that Governor Greg Abbott waived accountability for schools to hold to performance standards for their report card grades or for continued school funding.

As we face possible closures and virtual learning again, we already know these possibilities fail our kids. And they fall farther behind in their education after not having an opportunity to rebound.

Combine Stage 5 restrictions with supply issues that have our local districts forcing teachers to buy the paper necessary to perform their jobs, and toner caps to limit copy access. We have big problems and no good solutions in sight.

As if school isn’t already complicated enough.

Now we also have to ask: Why are we still protecting the unvaccinated?

It’s past time for vaccine mandates in schools. Do you agree?

Get your shot already and for the kids too. It's past time.

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Professional freelance writer | Happy Mom of 2 bringing you amazing tips on parenting, travel, & lifestyle with a touch of humor & sarcasm | Dog Mom | Bestselling author.

Austin, TX

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