A Flagler Palm Coast High School teacher who asked not to be named wrote the following account late this week, ahead of school’s resumption for students on Aug. 10. Teachers were back at work starting last Monday.
As the school year approached, I became more anxious about returning to classes full of unmasked or partially-masked high school students. While I am fully vaccinated, I worry about the efficacy of the vaccine as the virus continues to mutate into different variants through the country and community.
In the teacher workdays this week, most of us were unmasked, including myself, assuming that we are all vaccinated. We distanced as much as possible. But as soon as the students walk in Tuesday, I will be wearing a mask, encouraging my students to do so, and will have a box of masks for them to use if they don’t have any. My largest class will have 34 students. I do not have a big classroom. Several teachers have classes with well over 30 students this year.
My frustration with the Governor’s ban on mask mandates in schools is that it’s unsafe and hypocritical. DeSantis is ignoring the science by arguing that the recent spike is seasonal, which is nonsense. He is also arguing against federal Covid interventions by taking a states’ rights position, while simultaneously restricting the rights of counties and local school governing bodies to do what they feel is best for their communities according to their local health departments.
I have several practical concerns. First is the complete lack of information from the school board concerning Covid protocols. The first time I read the district protocols was on this site. There has been no discussion of a contingency plan if there is a Covid breakout. Nor is there clarity of what happens if several students or teachers test positive. CDC guidelines say to quarantine, but that’s not clear at the local level. The CDC states that even vaccinated persons who are positive can spread the virus to others. But the Health Department, despite its new rapid-testing protocol for district teachers and students, will not be testing those who are vaccinated and asymptomatic, but may have been exposed to the virus, which is as good as saying that people who experience breakthrough infections–and don’t know it–may continue working. This is unacceptable, irresponsible, and dangerous. In sum, there has been no articulated plan for the eventual breakout of cases among teachers and students, vaccinated or not.
There is a false sense of security in the vaccine, or at least the false impression, that it protects people from getting and spreading the virus. Our school board, it seems, has not taken this science into consideration. I would be mortified if I contracted the virus and passed it to a student, who might further pass it along to an eight-year old unvaccinated sibling or an eighty-year old grandmother.
I cannot imagine what our teachers at the elementary schools are going through as we prepare for this school year. Our anti-mask, anti-vax former school board chair has provided no leadership and apparently, like the governor, sees all of her employees and students as mere numbers.
The virus today in Flagler County is worse than it has been during the entire pandemic. If only 50 percent of our population is vaccinated, that means very few of our kids are vaccinated, and none under 12 have been cleared to be vaccinated, though they can still be carriers. This is about to be an entirely preventable shitshow.