by Mia Dror, Jocelyn Wu & Emma Zhang, Features Reporters, Features Editor
graphic by Julie Wang
English teacher Rachel Becker said that since getting the vaccine, she has felt a positive change in her day-to-day life.
“I went swimming for the first time in over a year yesterday, and I’m just starting to think more about what I’ll be able to do,” she said. “My mom’s fully vaccinated and she lives in California. I’m so excited to get to see and hug her this summer.”
Becker said that although more and more people are getting vaccinated, returning to in-person school is a personal decision that should be carefully considered right now.
“We all have different thresholds of comfort. My kids are in Boston schools, and some of their friends have really good reasons why they are at home,” she said. “I don’t think it should be something that parents are pressured into, and I, certainly as a parent, wouldn’t want to be pressured into it.”
At school, Becker said that students have been adequately following social distancing rules.
“I’ve seen a lot of general respect for protocols. It’s not perfect, but considering that it’s the end of a very tricky year, it’s been fine, and I feel very safe here,” she said. “There are some reasons why people might not get the vaccine, but I really hope that with enough information, they’re able to make a decision to get it.”
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English teacher Jenny Robertson said that the decision to go back to school in-person is unpredictable, so it’s important to be cautious when making decisions.
“Science is constantly evolving. We’re learning new things all the time, and parents and kids should make the decision that’s right for them right now,” she said.
Robertson said that the recent announcement to transition to four days a week in-person is primarily due to recent teacher vaccinations, and it’s a part of the journey to normalcy.
She said that she feels safe at school largely as a result of the precautions currently put in place.
“We’re rushing to open things, and so it’s not just schools opening, but restaurants too,” she said. “It’s all part of a puzzle; because we’re getting vaccinated, I feel much safer, and I know the social emotional piece is really important.”
Robertson said that she expects schools will fully reopen gradually as more people feel comfortable switching to the in-person learning model.
“I don’t think it’s gonna be a crazy mad rush,” Robertson said. “I do absolutely think more people will start coming.”
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Wellness teacher Alan Rotatori said that although he was initially wary about the vaccine, he is now relieved to be a part of the school’s plan to return to normalcy. He said that he hopes that with time, others will follow the same path.
“As the days, weeks and months progress, people are going to build the confidence that they need, and more and more people will start getting the shot,” he said.
Rotatori was grateful to be able to fully reconnect with his parents again, all of whom received the vaccine.
“I actually got to hug my mother and father for the first time in over a year,” he said.
Above all, Rotatori said the vaccine has helped him be more appreciative of even the simplest things.
“Sometimes our society is a little selfish and we expect a lot of things, but a lot of the stuff doesn’t really matter that much,” Rotatori said.
Regarding the return to school, Rotatori said he understands that it can feel intimidating, but it will happen eventually.
“At some point, when it’s truly safe to come back, you just have to draw a line,” he said. “We have to get back to school in-person because it is normal for our society to be in school and it’s better for your health.”
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History teacher Jonathan Greiner said spirits are high among teachers in line for the vaccine.
“Every single teacher I talked to was getting the vaccine or was fighting to get it,” he said. “If anyone was hesitant, it was because it was hard to get through the websites. I haven’t talked to a single teacher who is not excited to get it.”
Greiner said that although current circumstances may seem daunting at first, people will eventually begin feeling more comfortable.
Just as he became comfortable from double masking to wearing just one mask, Greiner said that he believes people will feel more confident sending their children to school when more people are vaccinated.
“There was a certain level of every step of reopening where I’ve always felt nervous at first, but then after a few days, I’m like ‘oh, this is fine,’” he said.
With the new vaccine and the school’s plans to collapse the current cohort model into one cohort, Greiner is looking forward to what’s to come.
“I definitely feel safer and more excited than I have ever been to get more and more people in the building, whenever possible,” he said.
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After months of anticipating getting vaccinated, sophomore Lia Merkowitz recently received the Pfizer vaccine, an opportunity she said she is grateful for.
“I was always planning on getting the vaccine at some point because I believe that it will help with safety if everyone gets it,” she said. “I got the vaccine a little bit earlier because I’m a food service volunteer at FreshTruck, a company that hands out fresh produce to low-income neighborhoods.”
She said that though there are many jokes mocking the safety of the vaccine circulating social media platforms, they haven’t phased her decision to get vaccinated.
“I’ve seen a lot of jokes on social media making fun of the vaccine, but I never really believed them. I know a lot of adults who have already gotten the vaccine and are doing fine,” she said.
From observations made during her time in-person, Merkowitz said that she believes South is making adequate efforts to follow COVID-19 protocols.
“I think Newton South is doing pretty well. I’m no medical expert, but from my perspective as a student, I think that they’re doing the best they can,” she said.
The comfort levels of her teachers after getting the vaccine compared to prior to their vaccinations have differed notably, Merkowitz said.
“I know that a lot of teachers were worried about coming to school, so I’m really glad that most of them have gotten the vaccine and their worries are eased,” she said.
Although she said she feels safe in the school, Merkowitz said she encourages everyone to continue to follow the precautions currently in place.
“I know that [not everyone has] been vaccinated yet, so even though my family is vaccinated, I still wear a mask and take all the precautions that I can,” she said. “I know that everyone is saying that we’re almost at the end of the pandemic, but we’re not quite there yet.”