Vaccine for teachers could bring schools closer to normalcy, principal says

Staff Report
Constance Johnson administers the COVID vaccination to East Iberville School principal Hiram Wade Bailey.

The most recent expansion of the coronavirus vaccine has brought what many consider another form of a light at the end of the tunnel.

The latest tier of vaccinations brought school personnel throughout the state into the fold, which school officials across Louisiana have considered a big step closer to normal life in the school systems.

For teachers in the Iberville Parish School System, officials have made immunizations available on campus, a move that has made the process more convenient for teachers, who do not have to leave work to receive the vaccination.

School Board Superintendent Arthur Joffrion said recently he would encourage officials to take advantage of the opportunity to receive the vaccine but added that it is not mandatory.

One administrator said he hopes the immunizations will be the turning point to bring back many of the programs and daily rituals that have been absent from schoolgrounds during the pandemic.

East Iberville School principal Hiram Wade Bailey took immunization on Friday, the first day that St. Gabriel Health Clinic offered vaccinations for administration and faculty at his school and the MSA-East Campus.

Some have taken advantage of the opportunity, while others have been skeptical.

“Now that the shots are here, we‘re having more people who are stepping up to take it,” Bailey said.

While classes have resumed and all but approximately 10 percent of the student body has returned to face-to-face learning on his campus, the pandemic has reshaped every facet of the school year. Those not on campus are still in virtual format.

Gatherings, assemblies and athletic events have either been altered or called off during outbreaks during the school year, while social distancing has changed the format for students to eat breakfast and lunch and interact on the school ground.

“We really look forward to having normal school, where we can have assemblies and where we can have programs and things like that,” Bailey said. “I think everyone will be comfortable being around each other once they know that they won’t be passing around the virus to other people.”

Even with all the adjustments that have come since school reopened after more than five months in shutdown statewide during the pandemic, the approach to those changes has amazed Bailey.

Classes resumed and athletic events continue. The football teams played under the lights on Thursday or Friday nights, and basketball games still thrilled fans, even though the crowds were considerably smaller due to the COVID regulations.

“It’s a mixed blessing, but I think the big thing is the fact that we have had kids back and teachers back,” Bailey said. “It was hard not having that daily schedule that has been consistent, but in the last month or we haven’t had anybody out due to the quarantine and things have been more consistent.

“Even as a school, we haven’t been able to get together for faculty meetings or social events and come together as a family, and we have the same issue with the students where we can’t meet with all the students and have everyone together,” he said. “It’s important as an administrator to bring people together, and that’s very difficult to do during these circumstances.”

Bailey said he hopes that those daily activities that were a longstanding ritual on school campuses will be able to return as more people get the immunization.

“To me, as an administrator, this is a chance for us to regain that cohesiveness,” he said. “It’s my hope that with the vaccines going out as fast as they are, we will see that sense of normalcy back by this time next year.

“But to look at where we were almost a year ago, it’s just good to know that we’re here and that we’re getting some learning done, even though it may have not been as much as other years,” Bailey said. “We’ve seen strange things in this profession, but never anything like this, and hopefully these vaccines will get us back to normal.”

That return to the kind of school setting he knew best made the vaccine worthwhile, Bailey said.

“And when I took the shot, I hardly felt any pain,” he said.