VACCINATE, VACCINATE, VACCINATE is the word of the year, with the CNMI at over 81% fully vaccinated. Do you then wonder why our middle and high schools are going to school for two or three days a week?
The repercussions of policy and procedures, which have protected our islands, have greatly affected our children’s education. Each parent, guardian, and family member can do something to change this. As Parent Advisory Committee members, we are reaching out to all public-school parents and legal guardians so we, as a community, can collectively get our children back to full face-to-face, in-person learning sessions five days a week in all PSS schools.
The PSS and CNMI Task Force have been working day and night to keep us safe from the coronavirus, while finding alternatives to educating our kids. Currently the public middle schools and high schools have not returned to school at full capacity because the COVID-19 Task Force requires all eligible persons at each school to be vaccinated and reach at least 80% of the total school population. The teachers and administrators of these schools have met or exceeded 80%.
Now is the time to ensure our eligible 12- to 17-year-old students obtain the same 80% vaccination rate. The current student population eligible for the vaccine by school is between 35% to 83%. Here’s data from Sept. 22.
Schools have given students health forms to get your approval to only collect data on your child/children COVID vaccination. This will give PSS staff an accurate measure of our total vaccination rates. If your student(s) has/have not brought home any forms, please contact your school administration office.
There are three things that PSS urgently needs to return to normal school hours.
First, sign the necessary documents for information sharing of COVID vaccination information between PSS and CHCC. Permission forms are available at all school administration offices.
Second, sign the permission form allowing your student to be COVID tested. Our community is fortunate enough to have free access to rapid COVID tests, unlike many U.S. cities. PSS, along with the COVID-19 Task Force, would like to regularly test the entire school population to ensure the community that there is no coronavirus at the schools. The test uses the Abbott Binax rapid test. This nasal test is painless and is a gentle swab of only the nasal cavity, unlike the PCR test, which goes into the sinus cavity. If your child can put a cotton swab, a toy or a Cheerio in their nose, then they should have no fear of this test.
Third, and most important, vaccinate your eligible 12- to 17-year-old child/children.
We, as parents and guardians, have a responsibility not only to our children, but to those who take care of them in our public schools. It takes a village and we must share responsibility in getting all 12- to 17-year-old students vaccinated. The administration and teachers have done their part…now it is our turn!!!
There are many outreach programs to help with transportation and to assist in any other obstacles your family may have. Be sure to sign the consent form for vaccinating if you are not accompanying your 12- to 17-year-old child/children to the vaccination site. Call for assistance at 287-1089.
Children need full face-to-face in-person education or they will continue to fall behind in their knowledge and growth. Their future is at risk! Reading, mathematics, and sports, which have been stepping stones to receiving scholarships, federal programs and funding, have been potentially unavailable for two years. As parents, we can remember our own clubs, social events, interacting with friends and making new ones when we were students. Our children will miss out on those experiences and opportunities. It is now time, as it has been for generations before us, to stand up! Protect our children and ensure they get the best education and opportunities available in our PSS.
Together, let’s make this happen.
Si yuus maase.
Rob Harrell is president of the Parents Advisory Council to the Commissioner of Education. Tina Goodwin is president of Marianas High School’s Parents Teachers Students Association.