Head of School Fred Assaf announced in a March 4 email to the Pace community that the school had secured COVID-19 vaccinations for all Pace Academy employees, “alleviating much anxiety and further securing the health and safety of our entire community.” Therefore, Pace had a half-day on Mar. 8 so that more than 80 employees who had signed up could receive their first dose of the vaccine. “As you can imagine, this marks an exciting and much-anticipated milestone for our community,” said Mr. Assaf.
This past school year allowed the Pace community to return to in-person school while masked and socially-distanced. However, health concerns have prohibited many typical traditions and activities, and even causing some community members to not return to Pace in-person this year.
When the SARS-CoV-2 virus reached North America last January, those in the scientific and medical communities predicted that a vaccine would be necessary to reign in the virus and get back to a “normal,” post-COVID-19 world. As vaccine development is a burdensome process, most recently taking four years to create the mumps vaccine in 1967, uncertainty revolved around when the vaccine would be ready for those across the world.
However, 2021 has brought hope concerning life beyond COVID-19. This year has seen unprecedented research and production of vaccines, with more than 355.16 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered as of March 13.
“Mr. Assaf’s help took the anxiety of scheduling appointments off all of our hands,” said Spanish teacher Paula Pontes, who received her first dose of the vaccine last week. “It was super easy and straightforward. A group of Pace people got the shots together, so as we all waited afterward, it was like a little Pace vaccine party, celebrating the excitement of our future to come.”
Other faculty members received their first dose on March 13 at Trinity School, exactly a year since the last regular, pre-pandemic day of school at Pace. “It was powerful to receive my vaccine exactly a year later,” said Associate Director of College Counseling Pam Ambler. “We are all incredibly grateful to Mr. Assaf as he streamlined the process of registering for the vaccine. We also have joked about how the logistics managers from the Chick-fil-A drive through would be impressed with the metro Atlanta Ambulance Services operation at Trinity. The experience was painless and efficient, and my elation kept any potential negative side effects at bay.”
With full vaccination on the horizon for many on the faculty and staff, enthusiasm for the possibility of life eventually returning to normal has filled many teachers’ lives. According to Class of 2024 Dean Caitlin Terry, she is looking forward to feeling more comfortable every day at Pace. “I’m excited to attend student sporting events, walk into Inman to chat with freshmen and just to eat lunch inside,” said Mrs. Terry. “I’m very privileged and so lucky to have been one of the first people to get this vaccine in Georgia, but it has taken a great weight off of me. I now can do what I love to do, which is being around and hanging out with students.”
US Librarian Marty Hamburger, who received his first vaccine shot last week, also mentioned how he is thankful for Pace’s steps to protect the community this year. “I’m now looking to the future when we can have the library back to full capacity,” said Mr. Hamburger.
And even as the U.S. looks ahead to what life will be like beyond this pandemic, Mrs. Terry has kept in mind how this past year will always serve as a reflective moment regarding how “we need to change for the better.” “When this country buckles down and says that something needs to happen, we get it done,” said Mrs. Terry. “If we are going to call ourselves a great nation, this pandemic has shown very clearly the areas that we need to improve.”
Photos: (L-R) Pace faculty members Pam Ambler, Krista Wilhelmsen and Caitlin Terry share selfies and messages of gratitude on Facebook after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Photos: Facebook