Faculty vaccinations key to future normal

Bernie Rodgers ’21 joins a zoom meeting in School – Photo by Gabe Gowen ’21

Math teacher Ms. Barb LaPenta watched the ball bounce up and down in anticipation. There she sat, at 5:15 p.m. at Bucks County Community College, watching a basketball game while waiting for her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. After what seemed like ages, a nurse called her back and administered the dose. After that, she went home. Simple as that. 

     The only side effects Ms. LaPenta felt were a little tenderness the next morning, and the good feeling knowing that she was now significantly less susceptible to COVID-19.  

     Every single person counts at Haverford, but one teacher’s health faltering has a significantly greater impact than one student’s. Teachers, based on age, are generally more susceptible to COVID and its symptoms. With this in mind, teachers’ vaccinations are an obvious path to safety and future normalcy. The sooner more teachers have the experience Ms. LaPenta had earlier this year, the sooner we will finish our journey on the path back to normalcy. 

     Since the beginning of the year, as the majority of Haverford’s teachers have not yet been vaccinated, a few faculty members teach from home as a COVID precaution. Along with those teaching virtually indefinitely, an in-person teacher will occasionally have to teach virtually in wake of possible COVID exposure. While the desire, or even necessity, of virtual teaching is completely understandable, there is no denying that the virtual education experience is markedly different from the in-person one. 

     “It takes away from so many things,” in-person Latin teacher Ms. Adkins said. “[Online teaching]is a pale comparison to what life in the classroom is like.”

     In light of the pandemic, HIPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws allow teachers the privacy to teach virtually on the advice of their physician. Obviously, these teachers are not choosing to work from home: they must for their own safety. However, that does not negate the effects of online instruction.

     Teachers like Ms. Adkins aren’t the only ones who find the online/in-person hybrid method of teaching difficult. Sixth Former Michael Bozzi attended a class led by a virtual instructor this fall and felt a similar way. 

Ms. Emily Harnett teaches a Fifth Form English Class in Person – Photo by Gabe Gowen ’21

     “I’ve had one teacher that’s been online,” Bozzi said. “I feel like if we’re putting in the effort to be here every day, and be here in class to learn hands-on, face to face, then yeah, I think the teacher should also be in class.”

“We don’t yet know how many of our teachers will be receiving them next week, but believe that all will be vaccinated within the next month or so.”

Dr. Nagl

     The hope is that these remotely taught classes can be returned to some form of normalcy with faculty vaccinations. Head of School Dr. John Nagl has been in contact with Montgomery County. 

     “The Federal Government is making Johnson & Johnson vaccinations available to all school faculty and staff; Montgomery County plans to begin the inoculations next Wednesday [March 17th]. We don’t yet know how many of our teachers will be receiving them next week, but believe that all will be vaccinated within the next month or so,” Dr. Nagl said.

     For now, vaccines are still being distributed by county. According to a recent poll, 40% of our faculty live in Delaware County, 28% live in Montgomery County, 24% live in Philadelphia County, and 8% live in Chester County. The diverse geography of our faculty suggests that, unless vaccinations are administered through Haverford as opposed to their counties, that parts of our faculty could be vaccinated months before the remainder.

     It is also worth noting teachers’ willingness to receive the vaccine. According to that same poll, 96% of faculty say they plan on getting the vaccine. However, 4% were not certain they would accept it. 

     “I would say yes,” Third Former Russell Yoh said, as to whether he thinks teachers should be required to be vaccinated. “I would say it should be enforced.” 

     Amid this year’s uncertainty, vaccinations are the bricks that build our yellow road to salvation and some form of normalcy. Until then, it’s obvious we need each other more than ever. 

     “I’m a fan of either everybody in or everybody out,” Ms. Adkins said. 

Author: Gabe Gowen '21

Gabe Gowen ‘21 is a student in the journalism seminar. He participated in the English IV* program in the fall, and particularly enjoys trying to act as the voice of the common man at Haverford: something he finds often overlooked. Gowen plays on the Water Polo Team, is the Chairman of the Honor Council, and a member of the Notables.