Vaccinations & LM

Choices regarding COVID made in the summer are affecting our experience in school right now. 

Graphic by Michael Aizenberg ’23

Over the summer, the COVID-19 vaccine was made available for children ages twelve and up. This allowed for all high school students to have the choice to get vaccinated. This enabled the school district to open up vaccination clinics, where students could easily get the shot. Many people gladly attended these clinics, while others did not. These choices made in the summer are affecting our experience in school right now. 

California has just recently required vaccinations for students while other states have made it optional. Pennsylvania is one of the states that has left it up to choice. In Pennsylvania, some private schools have exercised their right to require the COVID-19 vaccine. One of these schools includes Penn Charter, which is very close to Lower Merion. On the other hand, Lower Merion does not have this right to require the vaccine as it is a public school – though we are using vaccinations to help us determine our restrictions and daily activities. 

Right now we have less restrictions than we had last year, including Lunch and Learn, more indoor collaborative spaces, and less social distancing as well as the option to not wear a mask outdoors. Currently, school is enforcing a rule that has every student give one another three feet of space instead of the six required last year. This new social distancing requirement could also decrease if we increase our vaccination rate. Currently 81.75 percent of all district high school students are vaccinated, with 12th grade being the most vaccinated at 83.4 percent. These numbers are based on the information the school has from their vaccination clinics and vaccination report cards that students and families have sent in. If you are vaccinated and haven’t sent your information to the school, you should consider doing so as this would significantly help Lower Merion and the school district. 

These are great numbers, but prior to Pennsylvania’s mask mandate in school, the district was hoping that if 95 percent of the student body got vaccinated, there would be no need for vaccinated students to wear masks inside the school. Currently, the rate of transmission in LM is very low as only twelve students and three teachers have tested positive for COVID-19. These are the highest marks from any school, which is very surprising when comparing the vaccination rate of LM to the unvaccinated population of all of the elementary schools. This shows that schools have been doing well currently despite the lack of vaccinations from a majority of the students. When over 85 percent of students in a school are vaccinated, this should be enough to allow for lessened restrictions. This also affects the events that go on around the school. Basketball season is right around the corner and if we have to wear masks and social distance while watching basketball, that would be difficult. Getting to a higher vaccination rate would help ease the masking and distancing, making attending events like this more fun. 

There are three steps that need to be taken in order for there to be less restrictions in LM. First, the state needs to ease its guidelines and allow for vaccination rates to play an important role in an individual school or district’s guidelines. Secondly, we need to get more people to send in their vaccine cards or to get vaccinated as this would help the school district ease restrictions. Third, we need the district to take action and ease restrictions when appropriate. If there are increasing cases, then there should be more restrictions placed, but if not, then restrictions should be decreased allowing for us to return to as normal of a school year as possible.