Some teachers concerned about reopening schools

"It doesn't seem worth the risk to me"
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Posted at 5:29 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 20:29:46-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The CDC announced Wednesday that schools could reopen safely without having teachers be vaccinated. But some San Diego Unified School District teachers believe that returning to the classroom now is too dangerous.

Fifth-grade teacher Casey Hickenbottom would love nothing more than to teach his kids in person again. But right now, he said his community just is not ready.

"In my room alone, I have two families where COVID ran roughshod over the entire family. One young lady who lost a grandparent and an uncle," Hickenbottom said.

He teaches at Johnson Elementary School, where 100% of students get free or reduced lunches. Their parents are almost all essential workers who are at high risk of COVID exposure.

"My parents and guardians are out at work every day, and quarantining is a luxury they don't have," Hickenbottom said.

Wednesday, the Director of the CDC said that teachers do not have to be vaccinated in order to reopen schools safely. But Richard Barrera, President of the San Diego Unified School District Board, said he wants teachers and essential school workers to be prioritized for vaccinations at places like the Petco Park Vaccination Superstation.

"We would like to see some dedicated lanes for teachers to get appointments, go through, and get vaccinated," Barrera said.
But San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said that would not happen.

"I do not believe that it would make sense to take a senior out of line and replace that senior with a young and healthy worker," Fletcher said, as he referred to police officers and teachers.

Even if teachers were vaccinated now, it would take six weeks until the vaccine's efficacy reaches its peak. By that time, there will only be a little more than a month left in the school year. Barrera says it is still worth it.

"Every day they can get back, it's a positive day," Barrera said.

Hickenbottom said he would gladly take the opportunity to get the vaccine but knows school would not be the same as before the pandemic.

"How are you going to do recess time? How are you going to keep them from touching one another?"Hickenbottom asked. It doesn't seem worth the risk to me, and that's coming from somebody who would love to be back in the classroom."

The President of the San Diego Education Association told ABC 10News that a reopening plan should be tailored to each community, and not a one-size-fits-all plan.