When all of the state’s schools have reopened in about two weeks, teachers may find themselves with an opportunity to teach their class about vaccinations.
Will the mRNA technology used by Pfizer and Moderna to make coronavirus vaccines be taught in science class, or will teachers address the myths surrounding Covid-19, the Delta Variant, masks, and the vaccines? Students might bring up the subject and that could open the door.
MarylandReporter.com reached to Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) president Cheryl Bost for comment about how the lessons of COVID-19 should be taught in schools.
A spokesperson for the organization responded and said that it is too early to make that call – although the school system has had a year to figure out a response to how to teach about the pandemic.
“The truth is it’s not a subject area that is included in the curriculum,” MSEA press secretary Patti Mullins said in an email.
Comptroller Peter Franchot says it should be in the curriculum. Students should learn that vaccinations are an important weapon in defeating the pandemic, he told MarylandReporter.com at the Maryland Association of Counties annual conference in Ocean City last week.
“(People) need to be vaccinated as they all are for many many different ailments like measles and polio,” Franchot said. “It is a good news story is what the teachers should be teaching the kids.”
Franchot, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, added: “We have seen a lot of grief. We have seen a lot of disruption. But the future is going to be better because we are going to understand that we need to protect ourselves against future pandemics.”
The comptroller also said that teachers should emphasize to students that vaccines would not be available without private sector innovation. So far 80% of those eligible for the vaccine in the state have received at least one shot.
“They should emphasize the genius of the private sector, which has developed vaccines for the coronavirus. But also for many many other diseases that we vaccinate people for to protect the public. What the kids should learn first and foremost is that we have an unbelievable system in America where we can develop vaccines to protect people against the pandemic and whatever future pandemics there are.”
Jason Flanagan, a high school English teacher with the Prince George’s County school system, said it is important that students are made to feel as comfortable as possible when learning about the pandemic.
“You want to make sure that you are not bringing up any trauma that students may have. Some of the conversations may not be appropriate to have right now since we are still going through the pandemic. If the conversation comes up, that would seem to be a good time to have it. I do not necessarily think that we should be having whole lessons on the pandemic.”
Flanagan, who is a COVID-19 survivor, said he would address student misinformation about the virus or vaccines, in the same manner, he would address student support for any controversial idea or position.
“You would just have a discussion and allow the students to debate each other in a respectful way. If a student does not point out a misconception, which they usually do-if a student says something that is patently false —a lot of times other students will speak up. But if I feel like the whole class is moving in a certain direction where there is a lot of misinformation, I would encourage them to do more research and to look into things.”
Flanagan said educators should focus on students’ “social-emotional” responses to the pandemic.
“We do not have to necessarily talk about the pandemic with the virus. But we can talk about how kids are coping and dealing with things. How they are feeling. And give them a space to talk about what they are experiencing and what they are going through.”
Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO) president Cindy Sexton did not respond to a request for comment by the deadline for this story.
As of Monday morning, the state’s positivity rate is at 4.97%, which is just three-tenths of one percentage point away from exceeding what the CDC says are the recommended levels for containing the virus.