About a year ago, I wrote to this newspaper about the concerns I and other teachers had for the upcoming school year. As wild as our circumstances were then, I was not anticipating having to face pandemic concerns again.

Thankfully, we have a vaccine against the virus that is safe, free, and is greatly effective. Words cannot express my thanks to our healthcare workers and scientists who aided all of us in providing the vaccine as quickly as they did. I personally feel safe going to work this year.  

I am deeply saddened, however, that so many in our community are deciding not to get vaccinated when it is safe for close to all of us to do so. It is because so many of us are choosing not to vaccinate that the pandemic continues. Unless something changes, I know I will have student after student this year leaving my high school class for weeks at a time, just as was the case last year. I know my students will lose family members, just as they did last year.

I plead with our students, parents, and government to suspend the animus they may have against masks for but a moment, and to strongly consider having their children wear these masks this upcoming year until we reach epidemiologically defined herd immunity levels.  

I know that there is a concern about personal freedoms in this debate, but as a social studies teacher, please allow me to offer this perspective: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The three key rights held as a promise to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence. Why did Thomas Jefferson first mention the right to life?

If it is to be argued that freedom trumps life, does that then justify euthanasia in all cases? Abortion? Or is the mandate that I wear a seatbelt infringing on my freedom? Is it strictly my business if I decide to text and drive?

I plead with all stakeholders, and especially with those who have the power to set policy, to put our community’s health and safety as our first priority by requiring masks in our schools. I’d rather those who choose not to vaccinate be angry than have them be dead.

Michael Stone