The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education last week voted to ask Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration to prioritize school staff when deciding which groups of workers will get COVID-19 vaccinations next.
Vaccinations began last Monday in Louisiana. Based on federal guidelines, tier 1 hospital workers are first in line for the limited supply now available. Long-term care residents and staff and emergency medical drivers are next.
BESE’s request does not include a timeline. Members are asking state officials to make vaccines available to school and early childhood education workers “as soon as possible.”
State Superintendent Cade Brumley said that group includes about 166,000 people and suggested vaccinations would help keep schools and early childhood centers open. Union Parish Superintendent, Kristy Fine is in support of Brumley’s request. “On December 11, superintendents around the state were asked to support our state superintendent, Cade Brumley, in his request to place the employees in school systems as a priority to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Fine.
As of last week, about 65 percent of Louisiana’s students were attending classes in person five days a week, Brumley said. About 20 percent were attending class remotely, while 15 percent were attending schools holding a mix of in-person and remote classes, he said. Union Parish schools have adopted for the hybrid model with a mix of virtual and in-person classes.
Study after study has shown that students struggle with remote learning. Failing grades have skyrocketed during the pandemic with the majority of failing grades and nonparticipation coming from those who are solely virtual learners. It is clear that keeping students in school is a priority. “I fully supported Mr. Brumley’s request because our bus drivers, cafeteria technicians, faculty, staff and school administrators are on the front line every day. Each of them are serving our students as essential workers without question, and many would love the assurance of being guarded against such an unpredictable virus,” Fine said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sets the immunization schedules based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Prioritizing health care workers and long-term care residents and staff is the first official recommendation, though state leaders have the final say.
Clearing the way for education workers to receive the vaccine could play a large role in keeping schools open. “I do not consider myself ‘the vaccine police’ but will enforce the policy that is set before us when it comes to vaccine regulations,” said Fine. “I do plan on receiving the vaccine as soon as it is made available to me.”