Vaccines shift some mindsets

Maya Benjamin and Dylan Higgins

US Mathematics and Computer Science
Teacher Hannah Saris said she felt a stronger
sense of comfort teaching her students after
being fully vaccinated.
“I definitely do have more peace of mind
helping students and going within 6 feet
of them,” she said. “I’m fine with that now
because I know that I am pretty much immune,
and I’m very much looking forward to when
the community has that herd immunity.”
Ms. Saris envisions that the classroom
environment will become more interactive
once more community members have been
vaccinated.
“For the past school year, we’ve just been
sitting on our butts in our seats for really long
periods of time,” she said. “I think learning
is more effective when we can move, and as
more people get vaccinated, we can be more
comfortable interacting with each other
physically. And I think that will go a long way
in terms of the learning experiences for my
students.”
US Science Teacher Paige Kemezis said
she saw vaccines as only a piece of the puzzle
of comfort and safety, along with masks,
distance guidelines, and testing.
“I think vaccination is going to play a
comfort role for people,” she said. “But then
there are variants of COVID-19 that are
different and not tested against this vaccine.
So why is the U.S. as a whole feeling so
comfortable with a vaccine that’s not used for
these variants and potentially dropping other
safety measures? While I am worried about
COVID, in general, I think the masks and
distancing are doing everything they need to
do.”
Chief Operating and Financial Officer
Tara Gohlmann, who has been co-chairing
the school’s Health and Safety Committee put

together as part of the school’s reopening plan,
noted that the school’s low number of positive
cases has been an important factor in making
the “All In” model possible.
“We met with our consulting physician,
and he was so impressed with our low number
of cases,” Dr. Gohlmann said. “He was looking
at the dashboard, and he was amazed, really,
at how well the community has done. And
that really is a testament to our entire school
community pulled together to keep each other
safe this year.”
As of April 24, the school’s online COVID-19
dashboard showed that since August 30,
school testing of employees and students has
detected 24 positive cases, with an additional
59 positive cases logged as self-reported.
US Director Geoff Theobald identified
vaccinations as one step in the right direction,
not the final destination.
“Unfortunately I’m not quite ready to
cheer, ‘Yay, now we can all take off our masks!’
I think when you recognize all the safety
precautions we have been following this year
and how we interact every day, vaccination
feels like it’s another important step on the
way toward feeling freer and feeling more
capable of being out and about with less worry.
But realistically, I don’t think we are going
to be completely worry-free for a good while
longer.”
Still, Mr. Theobald said, getting vaccinated
is an important step toward normalcy.
“I’ve seen lots of people, myself included,
actually get a little emotional around the idea
of getting vaccinated,” he said. “Navigating
COVID has been a challenging and scary time,
and vaccines are something that feels hopeful
and positive.”
At the time this paper went to press,
every member of the community over 16
years old was eligible to receive a vaccination.
Unvaccinated readers can preregister for the
shot and sign up to be notified about available
appointments at mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine.