On March 11, 2020, the first cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico were confirmed. Two days later, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham officially announced the state would be temporarily shut down to combat the spread of the virus. The shutdown and the school closings that came with it were only supposed to last a couple of weeks. A year later, schools still haven’t completely opened statewide. However, as more teachers get vaccinated, officials believe this makes it completely OK to send vulnerable students back to school. It’s not.

School consumes most of any student’s time, and this is our main form of social interactions. All human beings, whether introverted or extraverted, are social creatures, and we need some sort of human interaction every once in a while. This lack of social interaction truly isn’t healthy for students. I would be the first student to tell you that I want to go back to school, but I am also the first to say we shouldn’t go back yet.

Not enough vaccine testing has been done on those 15 and younger, so there still isn’t a vaccine available for this age group. It seems as though every school deciding to reopen has completely forgotten this fact.

It’s a great thing that teachers are now a priority to get this vaccine, but their safety doesn’t guarantee ours. Students will still be vulnerable and can become infected.

Some people don’t really see this as a problem because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children up to age 14 are about one-third less susceptible to the virus than adults and usually won’t develop severe symptoms. Still, it is not worth the chance to risk the life of a child just to feel normal again. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, the soonest children under the age of 12 can get vaccinated might be toward the end of the year or the beginning of 2022.

Many schools have begun to reopen in a hybrid mode, with some students being able to come back to campus and others staying at home for remote learning. Many people like this idea because it allows students who want to go back to school to have a chance to do so and lets others opt to stay home. But the virus can still spread among unvaccinated students, even with a fraction of the school population on campus.

Teachers, once vaccinated, may be fine, but their students could still be in danger. Sanitary procedures have been enacted to help stop the spread, but can every child follow all of these rules? These are the questions that those in charge of reopening schools should ask themselves as they decide what’s the safest thing for their students. This situation is a fight between education and life, and it’s obvious which choice should be made. Education is a valuable thing, but there is time to learn. It will never be as valuable as life.

Ian Hernandez-Rojas is a student at The MASTERS Program. Contact him at ianhernandezrocks@gmail.com.

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