With the school year now well underway, it would be remiss for the district’s success at navigating the return to in-person learning to go uncommended. The Campanile praises PAUSD for facilitating a complete return to campus and appreciates the numerous measures in place to keep both students and faculty safe, including a mandatory mask requirement inside, ample airflow by means of open windows and doors as well as air purifiers and adequate spacing within classrooms.
But of special note, The Campanile praises PAUSD for providing on-campus testing to all students and staff and mandating weekly testing for unvaccinated faculty, measures that reaffirm and ensure the safety of the district’s campuses.
In an arrangement with Predicine Labs, PAUSD offers COVID-19 testing every Wednesday, highlighting the value the district places on the safety of its students and faculty. Furthermore, by guaranteeing everyone equal access to COVID-19 testing, the district fosters not only a safe community, but an equal one, helping families whose access to COVID-19 testing outside of school may be limited or non-existent.
Nonetheless, some students have expressed various concerns with the testing. Many have said offering tests only on Wednesdays makes for an inefficient process. Not only are wait times and lines long, but students who show symptoms on Thursday may have to wait almost a week before receiving a test and then even longer to receive the results.
The two types of tests offered on campus are take-home and PCR tests, both of which come with their own share of faults. Take-home tests can be inaccurate, often providing false positives or incorrect results forcing students to take a secondary test, while PCR tests can take weeks to provide a result.
For students showing COVID-19 symptoms, the district requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test to return to school, yet, with such long wait times to receive both a test and its results, students are forced to spend more time away from their classrooms, falling behind. While the intention behind the district’s testing is admirable, the execution falls short in numerous ways.
To fix these problems, the district should offer testing on campus on more days and exercise more transparency in the time it will take to receive test results. Students who are aware of when testing is available and how long they could have to spend at home waiting for the results may be more prepared to look elsewhere for COVID-19 tests or, at the very least, will be able to plan accordingly with their teachers to make up missed assignments, lessons and exams.
Ultimately, though faulted, the free, accessible testing offered by the district, coupled with the countless other safety measures in place, does help to ensure the safety of all PAUSD campuses. For that, The Campanile praises the district and values the prioritization it places into the safety of its students and faculty. On the basis of safety, however, one undeniably effective safety measure is noticeably missing from the district’s long list of precautions — a mandated COVID-19 vaccine.
Superintendent Don Austin told The Campanile earlier this month that he “thinks it’s inappropriate to tell somebody what they need to put in their body,” but PAUSD, and school districts across the nation, are no stranger to mandating immunizations for their students. According to Contra Costa Health Services, California law requires all students attending state schools, both public and private, to have polio, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps and chickenpox vaccines, among others, before entering kindergarten.
Students must then receive another round of immunizations before entering seventh grade, begging the question, why, now, in the middle of an unprecedented and ongoing pandemic, does the district draw the line for a vaccine requirement?
Religious and medical exemptions aside, what argument is there against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate? The Delta variant and breakthrough cases are on the rise, the California Department of Public Health has reported drastic increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and four public school districts in California have already mandated a COVID-19 vaccine. As a community, Paly is only as safe as the most careless of its students and faculty. Unvaccinated individuals pose a threat to both themselves and the people around them, and even with the numerous safety measures the district has in place, COVID-19 still can and will spread given the chance.
As their eagerness and promptness to bring students back to campus this year would suggest, the district clearly prioritizes and values in-person learning; however, this hasty return to campus should not come at the expense of safety. If the district truly values its students, a COVID-19 vaccine mandate is neither an unreasonable nor unachievable demand — it is worth upsetting a few to keep thousands safe.
PAUSD has set precedents and led by example time after time. The Campanile urges the district to continue to do so by implementing a district-wide vaccine mandate for all students and staff. With safety in mind, it is clear that such a mandate is not only a wise decision, but the right one.