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Justice Page teacher: ‘I’ll open the window, and then I’ll keep the wasps out how?’

March 2, 2021

This community reporting project documents the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Tracey Schultz, science teacher, Justice Page Middle School

Vaccine hunting has been absolutely wild. It seemed like when we moved into Phase 1B in mid-January, teachers were going to be eligible right away. But then a lot of places were only offering shots to people 65 and older. Tons of educators signed up at Hy-Vee, for example, and then they called all of us and said, “We can’t actually give you a dose.” Folks were telling teachers to call their clinics, but that wouldn’t work either. I was getting up in the middle of night and checking if Walgreens opened up slots. And then there was the Texas storm, which had a huge effect on supply. 

But the last few days things have really ramped up. My name came up in the state’s vaccine finder lottery last week, and I was able to get the Moderna shot on Thursday at the Minneapolis Convention Center, where they’ve been vaccinating thousands of people per day. I went before school, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get out in time to teach my first class because they had a computer glitch that slowed down the line. But I still ended up being out of there in a little more than an hour. It felt fine; I just had a sore arm. To be able to get that card in hand saying I’ve been vaccinated was awesome! I’m so relieved. 

My sixth-grade students will be returning to classes on Monday, April 19. The news came out at last Tuesday’s School Board meeting, which I watched on TV from home. Right now I have way more questions than I have answers. I know I’ll be in my classroom for full-time, in-person learning and that families have a week from today to choose, if they want, to continue distance learning. But that’s kind of the end of what I know right now. 

I’m relieved to have an answer, relieved to know, relieved to stop wondering. But then my mind goes to all the questions. How is it going to work? What will the schedule look like? Will my class be the same? To what extent will students be able to use science materials? Is it OK if they use alcohol wipes to clean off the microscopes? How many kids will be in the room and how will we spread out? Kids are moving from classroom to classroom — how does that work? How will I teach kids in person and also at the same time teach kids who are distance learning, which is what it seems like what I’ll be doing? Every step in this has been a big gulp. This is the next line in the series of: Oh my gosh, how am I going to do that?  

The kids have all the same questions and more. How does lunch work? How long will classes be? What if I don’t come back? Will we be doing everything on the computer? Will I get a locker? What about the bus? 

For some kids it won’t work to come back, and I want to be very careful about how I talk about it in class. It’s like you’re celebrating a party that not everyone’s invited to, and that feels icky. So if a kid turns on their mic and says, “I have a question about back to school,” I’ll answer it, but I’m not initiating the conversations. 

From a safety standpoint, it’s so complex. I’m a really healthy person and now I’m vaccinated, so I’m not too worried about myself. But I do worry about my danger to others and if I can infect someone else, and it’s not clear yet how being vaccinated affects our ability to pass the virus along. I’ve gotten comfortable wearing two masks and am starting to practice wearing a face shield as well. 

The data on reducing transmission risk by opening a window is really good, so I’d love to be able to do that. But we’re famous for having these windows that are next-to-impossible to open, and it’s a little hard to reach them. We also tend to have a lot of wasps right outside the window, which don’t have screens. So I’m thinking, “I’ll open the window, and then I’ll keep the wasps out how?” Maybe the wasps will relocate when it warms up again. There are a few challenges I have to figure out.  

I’m super Type-A. I like to have everything figured out and controlled, and this is so far above and beyond anything I can control. We’re getting ready for the next big leap, and it’s probably going to be rough — hopefully not with respect to health and safety, but definitely with keeping up our academic momentum. At least the days are getting longer and the weather’s getting warmer. That feels good.

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