As kids go back to school, let’s do our part to keep them safe

We all yearn for more ease, fewer precautions, and less worry. But we still aren’t there yet.

  • Friday, August 20, 2021 9:26am
  • Opinion

Note: On Wednesday, Aug. 18, Gov. Jay Inslee expanded his vaccination mandate to include employees of child care centers, K-12 public schools, private and charter schools and institutions of higher learning. Also, Inslee reinstituted the statewide mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons in indoor settings. This editorial went to press on Tuesday, Aug. 17 and was published in the Aug. 19 issue of The Beachcomber.

This week, we publish our annual “Island Child Back to School” guide — a compendium of information about local public and private schools as well as resources for alternative education.

In the guide, readers can learn more about the places, programs and people who are part of the single most important endeavor on Vashon — the education of our children and young people, who are our hope for the future.

This fall, our hearts will collectively skip a beat when kids go back to school for in-person learning five days a week, for the first time since March of 2020.

We had high hopes, earlier this summer, that the fall would bring a more joyous return to classrooms, without so much uncertainty around COVID-19. The pandemic has disrupted education in our country and on our island for far too long now; the impacts have been deep and will be lasting. We all yearn for more ease, fewer precautions, and less worry.

But in August of 2021, we still aren’t there yet, as we see cases on our island spiking with the emergence of the Delta strain. For those who have children who are not yet old enough to be vaccinated, it must be an especially anxious time.

Luckily, here on Vashon, we know that our local administrators and teachers will strictly follow both county and state safety guidelines as they open their classrooms. We are glad that guidance exists. We are so fortunate to live in a place that is governed by leaders who believe in the importance of wearing masks and vaccination for all who are eligible.

As the last few months have made clear, vaccination is truly the only way out of this pandemic. Even in the current Delta spike, vaccinated people are still largely protected from contracting the virus, and when they do get infected, they are much more protected from the disease’s most brutal outcomes.

And those outcomes are brutal indeed — if you doubt that, please read Rick Wallace’s commentary in this issue.

Wallace, as manager of Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center and vice president of VashonBePrepared, is probably more responsible than any other single person for Vashon’s 83% rate of fully vaccinated residents. But even Rick could not save his own sister — a devastating and fully preventable tragedy.

Local and national news has been filled with stories in the past few weeks about vaccine requirements and mandates that are coming down the pike for everything ranging from Seattle restaurants to colleges, to Broadway shows, to troops serving in the U.S. military.

This week, we have published one of those stories ourselves, about how Gov. Inslee’s new mandate for most state employees and health care workers to be vaccinated will affect our local agencies, including most notably, our Fire District.

Here at The Beachcomber, we fully support the mandate, just as we believe in the necessity of requiring other routine vaccinations to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. We support the mandate just as we support other public safety laws and rules that govern unhealthy behavior that could spread illness and injury to others. We don’t believe anyone, anywhere, has a right to risk the health and the lives of others.

We hope that Gov. Inslee will soon follow the recommendation of State Superintendent Chris Reykdal to extend Washington’s vaccination mandate to all employees of public schools in Washington.

The era of vaccine hesitancy and refusal needs to pass. We all need to feel safe again. Remember how good it felt to feel safe for just a few weeks, earlier this summer? Imagine what it would be like to feel like that for a longer time. Imagine what a gift it would be for our children.

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